Stalwart New York Red Bulls defender Jan Gunnar Solli has been fighting a left calf and thigh strain for the better part of six weeks. In that time, the team has excelled in replacing various injured players, including the Norwegian back, going undefeated in their last six matches.
After nearly three weeks away from the game, Solli is ready to once again contribute to the team’s hot form.
“It’s so nice to start training again,” he said. “The feeling is amazing when you come back and get a chance to train, like go 100% in everything you do, starting from warm up and don’t feel anything. Now it’s just the small bruises and pains you feel after someone kicks you. It just feels good.
The leg feels great. I’ve been able to train pretty well now with intensity the last 4-5 days. Of course that helps. Now I just feel like its just about getting back into the playing game.”
In his absence, all purpose player Brandon Barklage has stepped up as a steady replacement for the teams long-time right back. Solli has been a big supporter of Barklage throughout these weeks and holds no grudges for his excellent play. “He’s done phenomenal. All my credit goes to him and the way he handled getting thrown in there.”
As Barklage has solidified his spot in the starting eleven, Solli has seen his role shift. Just prior to his injury, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe featured him on the left side of the midfield – a new position for the veteran.
“I’ve just always been a versatile player, able to do different roles in the team,” he said. “I played two games in a row on the left in Emirates Cup (last year). I can play with both my feet but it would be called a lie if I said I am phenomenal with my left foot because I am not. I’m a right footed player but to be cutting inside and having a guy overlapping, to be able to hold the ball and attract attention and play someone through, which I have done in the right back position with Dane, higher up in the pitch, you get in those positions more often and are able to provide people with assists and create space for them. That’s what I am going to try to do.”
His role against Charleston will be a familiar one for him. “Today I was playing on the right hand side. With Dane (Richards) out with National team, it’s more likely for me to be playing maybe on the right.
“The last year before I came to Red Bull, I played central. The right hand side is where I had success, where we won the gold with Bromm in Norway in 2007. I played the whole season in one position and it turned out good.”
The Norwegian’s versatility has been a vital addition to the team during these lean times. For his part, Solli relishes the challenges associated with a new position. “I just feel like I’ve become a better player moving over here,” he said. “You train everyday and you still get a guy that works really hard and once in a while do some creative stuff.”