By DAVE MARTINEZ
Team sources have informed SBI that the New York Red Bulls have signed 6-foot-4 defender Rodrigo “Digão” Leite – better known as the younger brother of Brazilian star Kaka.
Red Bulls coach Hans Backe told the media Thursday that the team planned to announce the signing of Digão or fellow trialist Nicki Patterson of the Charleston Battery by Friday. Digão, who has previously featured for AC Milan and a host of Portuguese and Italian teams over the past six years, has been trialing with the Red Bulls since late last week and is a free agent.
Repeated media requests have been denied as the 27-year-old centerback featured in the team’s training sessions. The Red Bulls are expected to release a statement later Friday confirming the defender’s signing.
The addition of Digão adds to a glut of centerbacks on the Red Bulls roster, including such names as Markus Holgersson, Heath Pearce, Wilman Conde, Stephen Keel, Tyler Ruthven and Rafa Marquez. It also fuels this summer’s speculation connecting Kaka with the team as the former AC Milan star has repeatedly spoken about his desire to feature on a side with his brother over the years.
Here are a few more notes from the Red Bulls:
Historically, Hans Backe has bemoaned International call-ups. From his experience, the players usually come back fatigued and warn out from the stresses of competition.
This time seems to be a different story.
“I am surprised they are all so fresh,” Backe said. “Joel (Lindpere) and Tim (Cahill) came back, Roy (Miller) is injured, picked up a groin injury at Costa Rica in training. The way Tim and Joel played today, you can't definitely see they have been away for 8-to-10 days and travel. They were flying. Surprisingly good I must say.”
“I think for me, it's important that I keep myself fit,” Cahill revealed. “Professionally, even though I've been away for 10-to-12 days training hard and playing two games for my country, the travel and everything, I think it's important when I come back to train with the lads and that I come back in good shape and stay later and do extra work and tomorrow and make sure that I give myself every possible chance of being as fresh as I was when I left.”
Miller, who recently lost his starting left back position to Conde, will likely be out of action for two weeks. Fellow international Bill Gaudette returned to training early Monday and did not feature in Puerto Rico’s last match.
BACK LINE NOT SETTLED YET
Though Backe has repeatedly expressed his desire to feature an exclusive four-man line for the home stretch towards the playoffs, the quartet of Connor Lade, Holgersson, Pearce and Conde may not be the final formulation. Not with one of the players that Thierry Henry referred to as a key to the team's season, Brandon Barklage, on his way back from injury.
“They played quite OK our back four,” Backe said. “Still, Brandon (Barklage) is coming back, doing well in every training session and picking up the fight. Roy (Miller) is out now, but overall, there are five or six guys who can compete for these four positions.”
RED BULLS EXPECT DIFFERENT CREW
The Red Bulls are also highly aware that the coming home match against the Columbus Crew will not be a replay of their 4-1 victory in Ohio earlier this year – especially with the Crew's addition of Federico Higuain.
“They are different,” Backe said. “If you look at Higuain’s movement, he is more like a second striker. He definitely gives Columbus possession, perhaps not too many final passes even if he has probably six assists, but he gives them possession in the last third in the attacking game. He is a very clever player.”
The Red Bulls, who could be as low as fourth place in the East after Sporting Kansas City and Houston play Friday night, lead the Crew by just four points through 27 matches
“If you look at the standings you have probably at least six teams going for five spots," Backe said. "Every time you play at home, you play these kind of teams that are three, four points behind. You need to pick up results. It’s a big week for us. We play three games. Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, two home games and we’ve been unbeaten. You hope you can stay like that and perform and pick up wins at home.”