Coach Hans Backe is keeping true to his January declaration; he still wants to see a veteran keeper between the pipes for the New York Red Bulls. The one thing that has changed his tune since that statement is how impressive both Ryan Meara and Jeremy Vuolo have been in the early stages of camp.
“I think it’s good enough, both these goalies,” Backe said of his young keepers. “Of course, it’s a lot of pressure when you are 21 and I think 24, 25 years old and you don’t have the experience from top leagues. So in my mind, if we are going to find a third one, it’s going to be a guy with more experience.”
Second round pick Ryan Meara seems to have the inside track on the starting role. Backe made clear that Vuolo would start tonight’s Desert Cup match against Real Salt Lake along with the rest of the second team, including guest players and trialists alike. Meara, meanwhile, will get first team action against Pumas tomorrow.
Tasked with the difficult search for a veteran number just before the commencement of the 2012 season, New York is exploring lesser options in hopes of a quick fix. NASL keeper Ray Burse, 27, and USL Pro netminder Phillip Tuttle, 24, have joined the team this week and hope to fill that void.
“Todd Hoffard, our goalkeeper coach, he knows most of the guys in the US, so he is the guy that (picked Burse and Tuttle) for this preseason camp,” Backe said. “We’ve only seen them a little bit in training sessions.”
“It’s no panic mode,” he asserted. “Ryan and Jeremy are doing well in our practice. Let’s see tonight and tomorrow how they look in competitive games.” Regardless of performance, New York will continue their search. “We are still looking for a third goalie.”THIERRY HENRY MAY PLAY 90 MINUTES AGAINST PUMAS
Henry has returned to training with New York after a six week loan to Arsenal. “He looks quite fit,” Backe observed. “They play so many games each week in the Premiership so there’s not much training in between the games but so far he has done two sessions and he looks fit I must say.”
The legendary French striker and team captain is a vital cog in the Red Bulls plans this year. His loan was unexpected but turned out to be one of the great soccer stories of this early year.
With his success came speculation of a more permanent switch. The Red Bulls boss sought to diffuse any chatter before it could begin. “I think absolutely he is totally focused on the Red Bulls now.”
Red Bull fans will get a good long look at their captain against Pumas tomorrow, where the coach indicated Henry may feature for a full match. “He hasn’t been playing more than I think it was 45 against AC Milan. Otherwise, it has been around 20-25 minutes every game.”
“Let’s see now when we play tomorrow how he looks and if he can play 90 minutes,” Backe said.
BACKE ADDRESSES HOT, KASSEL
The Red Bulls cut Academy products Matt Kassel and Sacir Hot last week. The sudden move came as a surprise to many Red Bull fans.
Though speculation on the nature of their release ran rampant, Backe put a simple spin on the situation. “We just need to pick the 24, 25 best players at each position,” the Red Bulls boss said. “These guys just need minutes to improve and develop. Hopefully they will do that this year and we can get them back. But it would be, as it looks now, not many games for them.”
The Red Bulls, meanwhile, have been actively seeking a breeding ground for their young players to grow. Asked whether New York sought a loan for the players prior to their release, Backe stated that the teams Technical Director Ricardo Campos was on it. “I think he had two, three clubs that could be interested in these two guys,” Backe said. “So Ricardo has been, in a way, in charge and responsible for that, just to find clubs for them.”
On a related note, Backe was asked whether New York would employ a full thirty man roster for the coming season. The Red Bulls coach stated they would most likely keep the pieces at about 26 to 27 players, including three keepers. According to MLS roster rules, that could give the Red Bulls added allocation funds for future transactions.
LUKE RODGERS ANSWER MAY COME THIS WEEK
Meanwhile, Luke Rodgers continues to fight visa issues, and situations are certainly far from concrete. “We are still waiting for an answer from the embassy about an appointment,” Backe revealed. “I haven’t talked to Luke today. But it has to probably be a decision this week. Hopefully he gets an appointment this week so we know where we stand, but we don’t know that much now.”
WILMAN CONDE CONTINUES TO RECUPERATE
“The earliest Wilman can play … it would be great if we can do perhaps 20-25 minutes on Saturday against New England,” Backe stated. “Otherwise, it has to be Wednesday when we play Galaxy for 45 minutes.”
“He just needs to get more mobility in his ankle after the surgery. But hopefully, it will be 25 minutes on Saturday and 45 minutes Wednesday.”
Conde, who is coming off of major surgery to his left instep, cleared his medical exams with the club last week. Even so, the team is taking a cautious approach with their key defensive acquisition. “We have to be smart,” Backe stated. “If we rush it now and something happens with his ankle, then we lose him for months. I am not going to rush it.”