BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Is anyone in Major League Soccer looking for a striker? Luke Rodgers is back on the market and wants another shot at the States.
And no worries; he says his visa issues are a thing of the past.
“I could get my visa. I had spoken to the Embassy in December and they said it wouldn’t be a problem,” Rodgers told SBI. “I’m a free agent. My fitness is very good, though I’ve always been fit. I could play tomorrow if (MLS) signed me to be honest with you.”
As reported last week, the diminutive striker left Shrewsbury Town after an unsuccessful second stint with the club. He scored twice in 15 appearances but a tense relationship with the boss and his inability to command a starting role landed Rodgers with the reserve side.
It would mark his third team in two years since leaving New York.
Rodgers, 31, never wanted to leave the Red Bulls and New York wasn’t keen on losing him either. Due to his extensive rap sheet, which included a pair of assault charges, the United States Embassy granted Rodgers a restrictive one year visa to play in New York. The visa deadline ran through October which would have required Rodgers to head back to England in order to reapply for his permit.
The problem was New York made the playoffs and extended their season. In order to compete, Rodgers stayed in the US in violation of his permit. An already tentative agreement with the States became all the more contentious as his permit was refused for most of 2012, pulling him away from the club.
By December of that year, he was finally assured that his permit application would go through, but by then, change within the Red Bulls brass meant Rodgers was no longer in their plans.
“I thought if I got my visa, I could get back,” he explained. “When I contacted them, they had moved on and that was it.”
The team’s final rejection came as a bit of a surprise to the affable striker, dubbed “Tank” by his former teammates. “I was shocked to be honest,” he said. “I played with Petke when I was there. Mike knows what I can do. Ricardo Campos, Juan Romero, they still know what I can do.
“I’d love to get back in MLS itself, but honestly, I’d love it more to be with the Red Bulls. I just loved it there.”
The Red Bulls are currently hurting for offense after an explosive start to the season. New York have been held scoreless over the last 253 minutes of play. Nevertheless, his chances of landing in the Big Apple are slim to none. Sources with knowledge of the club say that ship has long sailed. “It’s nothing against Rodgers,” one source said. “It is simply a different team right now.”
Even if that door has shut on him, Rodgers feels he has more to prove in the American top flight with whatever club that would have him.
“I’d love to get back to MLS if there was interest,” he said. “I’m in good shape, good conditions and I have a strong record there. I scored something like 10 goals in 23 games.
“I’d done well when I was there and it’d be nice to get a chance to do it again.”