The most interesting race to watch during this condensed preseason has been the battle at the defensive line. A wealth of talented players, including Jamison Olave, Heath Pearce, Markus Holgersson and a host of others, have vied for what appears to be all four available starting jobs.
While that has been the focus, Ruben Bover Izquierdo has quietly managed to push his way into a starting spot through his own preseason battle. The Spanish midfielder has featured with the first team over the past four preseason matches and looks set to unseat presumed incumbent Lloyd Sam for the right midfield slot.
“We talk like Lloyd had something locked down,” Red Bulls Head Coach Mike Petke stated. “He played two games for us last year, then he had an injury.
“We know what Lloyd brings to us,” he continued. “It’s definitely been a battle from a number of positions, a number of standpoints this season (but) Izquierdo is a very exciting young player. He is all over the place, he has very good technical ability. He is young, he is raw and he is hungry.”
Izquierdo, who prefers to go by his middle name Bover, wore Petke’s number 12 this offseason and showed the kind of fiery attitude that has come to define his coach. In one memorable instance, the baby faced winger was the focal point of a preseason scrap against Malmo FF. That of course doesn’t define his game, but it does feed into Petke’s narrative this preseason; play passionately and you will earn minutes. So far, he has done that.
“I am very happy,” Bover tells EoS. “I’ve been playing which is most important. To play isn’t easy in this league and I am very happy. I’ll keep working but we will see what happens.”
Regarding a starting position, Bover is taking nothing for granted. “(Petke) hasn’t promised anything,” he explained. “If I do the work, I say count on me and right now, he is. I’ve played almost every game since I came here. Lets see what happens when the season starts.”
The Spanish midfielder is aglow about the opportunity to play in New York. Once he knew the team would sign him, he rescinded the remainder of his two year contract in Charlton to take the opportunity. “Three or four years ago, this was just a dream, a childhood dream,” he said. “Now it’s a reality to play alongside these huge players and to take advantage of it the most I can.
“I was playing with Charlton and the opportunity came up for a seven day trial,” he recalled. “For me, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was three years I played in England and I was looking for a change in scenery. Now to play with guys like Thierry Henry, Juninho, Tim Cahill is something that doesn’t happen everyday.
“To come here, I loved everything.”
“The way I played my career, I was never the best player on the field,” Petke admitted, “but my goal was always to out-work whoever I marked or whoever I was playing against. It wasn’t pretty all the time and that’s the mentality we have to bring.”
As of right now, Bover has done just that and the coaching staff is rewarding his efforts.