Photo by ISIphotos.com
By DAVE MARTINEZ
There will be no hero's send-off for Thierry Henry.
After Henry scored the final goal in a 7-1 Arsenal victory over Blackburn last weekend, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger alluded to the possibility of extending Henry's loan up to the London derby against Tottenham on Feb. 26. Such a move would have allowed the club to properly send off their legendary striker and all-time leading scorer in front of the Gunner faithful.
New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe threw cold water on the entire affair. Speaking to the media via conference call, Backe said that Henry will be returning to the club on Feb. 17.
"When I talked to him just some days ago, he said 100 percent he will be back Feb. 17 with us to join in (the Arizona training camp)," Backe said. "I said before he signed that he will be (used) as a sub and probably being in and around the locker room with Arsenal until they get the African Nation Cup players back," Backe said.
Asked if any overtures were made by Arsenal to extend Henry's loan, Backe denied the reports.
"Of what I know, it is only rumors," said Backe, who re-affirmed that Henry would be the Red Bulls' captain this season. "I haven't heard anything that they have reached out to extend the loan."
Henry's loan has already produced some lasting memories for Arsenal. His game-winning goal against Leeds United in FA Cup competition made worldwide headlines, while last week's goal against Blackburn poetically connected the Gunners' icon scorer with their present day star, Robin van Persie.
Even with those accomplishments behind him, Henry can still conjure up another memory or two as he remains on with Arsenal for a Premiership fixture against Sunderland and a UEFA Champions League tilt against AC Milan.
RODGERS' VISA PROBLEMS CONTINUE
With one half of the team's striking duo accounted for, there still remains questions about the availability of Luke Rodgers. The diminutive English striker, who was a force up top when available last season, is still having visa issues despite the club's confirmation to the contrary last week.
After an initial work permit denial, Backe said the Red Bulls have placed an appeal for Rodgers and expect word on the forward's availability by the end of next week.
Backe's confirmation follows statements made by Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler, who elaborated on the situation earlier this week on the MLS podcast, ExtraTime Radio.
"Luke was so happy when someone called him and told him his visa was on its way," Soler said. "So he reacted to the phone call, because he's so eager to get back and start going. He was a little bit too early with that.
"It turns out, it still has some work to be done and we're still very hopeful it will be resolved. According to our immigration lawyer it will still be another week or maybe two weeks. We hope we can have him ready when we go to Phoenix on the 23rd of February."
CONDE ON COMEBACK TRAIL
The Red Bulls took a chance trading for and signing Colombian defender and former MLS All-Star Wilman Conde in hoping to find a strong replacement for the departed Tim Ream. The 29-year-old centerback is recovering from major surgery to his left instep that put an end to his time in the Mexican Primera. From the looks of things, Conde's road to recovery is far from over.
Asked whether Conde would be available for the season opener, Backe cautioned, "He could be." Citing fitness concerns, the team plans to work on the defenders conditioning leading up to their Arizona camp. There, it is the coach's hope that Conde could participate in some game action.
PALSSON ON BOARD
Backe confirmed the signing of former Hibernian midfielder Victor Palsson.
The coach labeled Palsson "close to Teemu (Tainio)" in style and substance. The 21-year-old Icelandic defensive midfielder will join a packed rotation featuring Rafa Marquez and Tainio.
The move provides cover at the position, which will come in handy immediately. Tainio picked up a knock during training this week. Backe labeled it a "soft calf strain," but the injury will be serious enough to rule the defensive midfielder out for the team's remaining friendlies in Mexico.
MEARA, VUOLO MAKE CLAIM FOR NO.1 SPOT
With no veteran goalkeeping options in sight at the moment, the Red Bulls have been pleasantly surprised with their young tandem of Ryan Meara and Jeremy Vuolo.
Though not ruling out another signing, Backe expressed his confidence that one of his youngsters could be the teams starter.
"We have names," Backe said, "But we said also because both Ryan Meara and Jeremy Vuolo have done well in training, in the first game looked very solid 45 minutes each, let’s stay calm and see the next two games – the Saturday and Tuesday games – see how they can perform. Fingers crossed, perhaps one could be the No. 1 goalie."
TRIALISTS ANGULO, ARTEAGA IMPRESS
Backe also gushed when talking about some of his trialists.
Jose Angulo, the former St. Benedict High School standout, and Jhonny Arteaga received particular praise from the Red Bulls boss on various occasions. Backe also had kind words for former D.C. United midfielder Brandon Barklage, drawing comparisons between him and Dane Richards.
At one point, Backe said he would like to sign them all. He will give the remaining guest players an extended look into their Arizona camp.