Photo by ISIphotos.com
The first thing you notice when watching the New York Red Bulls train this week is the speed.
Whether it was Dominic Oduro, Dane Richards, Matt Mbuta or Macoumba Kandji, a minute wouldn't go by without some attacking player turning on the jets to beat a defender. It was just the second day of full pre-season training, but it is clear from the onset that head coach Juan Carlos Osorio plans on using pace to disrupt defenses who won't be able to just sag on Juan Pablo Angel like they have done in the past.
"I think we are going to surprise some people this year," Osorio said of an attack that will be considerably faster than last year. "There were times when we were a bit too unpredictable, but I think we have the players to make things more difficult on teams who try to defend us."
Oduro is expected to play a major role in that shift in philosophy. Acquired from FC Dallas for Dave Van Den Bergh earlier this month, Oduro is the fastest member of the Red Bulls' unofficial track team and his speed could lead to him playing a variety of positions, not just as a second forward alongside Angel. He saw a lot of time on the left wing
Kandji and Mbuta are not new faces, but after being acquired late in the 2008 season, the two former USL players stand to gain a lot from a full pre-season with the team.
Oduro wasn't the only new face in camp on Tuesday.
Rochester Rhino defender Scott Palguta has joined the club for pre-season for the second straight year but things could go very differently this time around. A year ago, Palguta impressed Red Bulls coaches but the Red Bulls balked at paying Rochester a transfer fee for the left back. Palguta signed a new deal with Rochester last season that would actually allow Palguta to make a much easier move to MLS this time around.
Palguta's chances of making the team could hinge on the club's ability to land a left back on the international market. Osorio is currently scouting an international left back the club could sign in the next week or two. Even if Osorio does land his international left back, Palguta still might be able to stick with the Red Bulls as a central defender/fullback.
Among the other invitees in training were former MetroStar forward Diego Serna, who is in camp but appears to be a long shot to make the club, and Colorado Rapids midfielder Nico Colaluca.
Here are some other observations from Tuesday's training session:
Mike Petkewas wearing his old No. 12 after having recently made a deal with midfielder Danleigh Borman to acquire his old number. Petke was also sporting a winter hat (pictured). No, he's not hiding a blond dye job under there.
Midfielder Dane Richardslooked like his usual dangerous self, repeatedly turning and beating rookie free agent Jerry Saintil from Seton Hall.
Midfielder David Roth looked very sharp on the day, delivering quality passes and showing off the speed he used to impress coaches in last year's training camp before being sidelined for the entire season with a knee injury.
Both Oduro and Kandji saw plenty of time on the left flank. Oduro has lightning speed while Kandji is more of a long strider who accelerates well out of turns and has enough tricks to beat his share of defenders. It is extremely early in the season but my prediction is that Osorio will try to get Angel, Richards, Oduro and Kandji on the field at the same time as often as possible.
Rookie Jeremy Hall struggled a bit to impose himself and has the look of a rookie. The talent is there, but he will need some time to adjust, as will most of the other rookies. Fellow rookie Nick Zimmerman showed some bite and some quickness playing as a right back. He could wind up being a late-round draft steal.
Another candidate for the left flank is Jorge Rojas, who wasn't at practice. He is still making his way back from the off-season in Venezuela.
Jon Conwaytook part in training and will do so throughout the preseason. He still has four games left on his suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, but can train with the team. He has yet to address the media about his suspension.
That's all for now. Feel free to share your thoughts on these observations in the comments section below.