By MIKE NASTRI
The New York Red Bulls have already added many new faces to the team that won the regular season Eastern Conference crown. New York hopes to add one more piece to that puzzle with new trialist Teemu Tainio.
The current Ajax midfielder arrived in Mexico for Red Bull camp on Thursday night. Head coach Hans Backe projected that Tainio will play in the team's scrimmage against Chivas Guadalajara on Tuesday. The Finland national team player will also travel with the team for its second camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., later in the month.
Tainio is primarily a box-to-box midfielder who had stints with AJ Auxerre, Tottenham, Sunderland and Birmingham. Tainio played right back during Juande Ramos' stint at Tottenham, and that's the position Backe views Tainio occupying should he wind up in New York.
"If we buy him, we will use him to compete at the right fullback position," said Backe. "He could be an attacking fullback, endline to endline for ninety minutes. He's a very technical player too."
The 31-year old would put Chris Albright's starting spot in jeopardy; however, Backe assured that Albright would be given a chance even if Tainio is signed.
"Chris will get his chance to compete for the starting XI," Backe said.
MARQUEZ TO PLAY CENTERBACK
The half-season experiment of Rafa Marquez in the midfield has come to a close. The Mexican international will move to his natural position, centerback, in 2011 to partner with Tim Ream in central defense.
"I will use him [Marquez] as a centerback," said Backe. "With him and Ream probably as our starters, they are so composed. They never get stressed. We will have a back four who are good football players that can come out in our attacking game.
"He looks absolutely as a leader in the back four," Backe added.
Marquez moves to the same position that he anchored on Barcelona's UEFA Champions League winning team in 2006. His move to the back forms arguably the most technically sound centerback pairing in MLS history.
The change opens the door for Tony Tchani, the Red Bulls second-year midfielder out of Virginia, to slide into the holding midfield position.
HENRY TO DON THE ARMBAND
Hans Backe wasted no time choosing a new captain to fill the void left by current Los Angeles Galaxy forward Juan Pablo Angel. Thierry Henry, the former Arsenal and French national team skipper will sport the armband in 2011 for New York.
There are certainly some longer-tenured Red Bulls on the roster, but no player has as esteemed a history as Henry. The French forward captained Arsenal to the FA Cup title in 2005 and France to World Cup qualification in 2010.
"He's the kind of guy that is verbial that can talk in the right way with the players," Backe said. "I think he is definitely the right guy and is a hard worker in every training."
STATUS OF THE YOUNG GUNS
While Hans Backe said it is too early to tell how Sacir Hot and Matt Kassel will fit into the 2011 New York Red Bulls, there are two rookies that he has been impressed with.
Tyler Lassiter, the 30th overall pick in this year's MLS SuperDraft, has looked like a steal so far in training camp.
"The way he started this preseason, he looks better in Feburary than Tim Ream did when he arrived," Backe said.
Lassiter projects as a centerback, as he doesn't have the speed to get up and down the flank at fullback. The North Carolina State graduate didn't have an outstanding MLS Combine, but he has continually impressed the Red Bulls coaching staff since his arrival at camp.
First-round pick Corey Hertzog is another draftee stating his case for playing time during training camp.
"Corey Hertzog looked very lively in our training sessions," said Backe. "I am very excited to see him take a step too."
Backe has always liked pace up top, and the Penn State forward was one of the speedier options in the draft, where he fell to New York with the 13th overall pick. The Generation adidas player led the nation in goals and points for the 2010 collegiate season.
What do you think about Tainio potentially playing right back? How do you feel about a Ream-Marquez central defense partnership? Think Henry should be the team's captain? Which Red Bulls rookie are you most excited about?
Share your thoughts below.