The 2009 Red Bulls media day didn't exactly have many exciting moments, but there was still plenty of information to go around. It's the one day of the year when media outlets large and small converge for their chance to schmooze the team.
Among the highlight were Jon Conway's Mark McGwire impression, Juan Carlos Osorio's promise to always make room for American players in his lineup, Albert Celades clarification of his name and Carlos Johnson clarification of his contract situation.
Let's get started with the highlights:
Albert Celades re-iterated his statement of a week ago about not coming to MLS for a glorified vacation. He respects the qualify of the league and isn't about to half-step the final stop of his career.
"I'm not here for a holiday," Celades said. "If I were not committed to this it would not work."
Celades clarified that his name is, in fact, Albert, and not Alberto. He has been known as Albert throughout his career, but the fact that his passport has the extra o in his name led the Red Bulls to introduce him as Alberto and list him as Alberto on the team website.
Juan Carlos Osorio acknowledged that there are some issues with scouting for an expansion opponent, but stated that he had procured video of all the most important players on Seattle and would have his team ready.
When asked about the Red Bulls over-abundance of foreign-born players, Osorio acknowledged that it is a priority for him to develop American players. He then pointed to Danny Cepero and Luke Sassano as examples of American players who have had the chance to grow and develop. Osorio went even further and stated that he will try to make sure that at least three or four Americans will always be in his lineup, a commitment that might sound tough to do on a team that presently has 13 foreign-born players and two more (Carlos Johnson and Alfredo Pacheco) on the way. The actuality is that with all his goalkeepers being American, and with Mike Petke and Kevin Goldthwaite expected to be fixtures in the back, the 2009 Red Bulls will never get to a point where it would field an Arsenal-like squad without a single domestic player.
Carlos Johnson showed no signs of the arm injury he suffered in last week's exhibition victory against Crystal Palace USA. Johnson fell awkwardly on his left arm, hyperextending his elbow in the process. He didn't have a brace on at Media Day and said he was fine. His playing status is another subject. He has already signed his contract, but is still awaiting his registration to arrive from his previous club in Norway. It's looking more likely that he is eligible for the Red Bulls' second match vs. New England.
One player who quietly drew some raves is third-year midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic. With the presence of Jorge Rojas and Celades you would think Ubiparipovic would struggle for playing time, but he has been holding his own this pre-season and could be poised for a breakout season.
SBI's resident MLS player/contributor Jeremy Hall was also in attendance and has committed to providing a player diary throughout the season. He will be providing us with his highlights of the Seattle trip so keep an eye out for that, and for future installments of the SBI Player Diary. He will fill us in on life as a rookie and his adaptation to the life in the pros.
Veteran defender Mike Petke was in attendance and no player has impressed me more this pre-season in terms of their demeanor than Petke, who has been a real breath of fresh air. When he left in 2003, Petke was still a young and brash player. Six years later, he has returned a seasoned veteran and clear leader in the clubhouse. He also looks rejuvenated on the field, and anybody who watched him in the second half of last season with Colorado knows that there is still gas left in the tank.
One player who wasn't at media day is as-yet-unsigned left back and apparent media machine Alfredo Pacheco, who has spent a good part of the last week telling anybody who will listen in El Salvador that he is on his way to the Red Bulls. It has become a running joke with Osorio, who never mentions Pacheco by name, but when reminded of how media savvy the "unnamed player" was, Osorio couldn't contain his laughter. Osorio said he expects a deal to be finalized this week. I'm sure Pacheco will let us know, either on Facebook or YouTube.
That's all for now. Feel free to share your thoughts on these observations in the comments section below.