By DAVE MARTINEZ
Ever since the offseason, the New York Red Bulls have been adamant about acquiring an attacking, distributive midfielder with their third and final Designated Player slot. Recent injuries to the backline have forced the team to consider other personnel options, though.
According to Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler, New York is exploring different avenues that could include up to a pair of high-impact signings this season, though they may not necessarily be in the attacking mold.
"We will also look at the defensive part to see if we need, even with the brilliant work with the young kids, that we need maybe a powerhouse,” Soler told reporters after the team’s practice session Tuesday. "We’ll see how (injured centerback Wilman) Conde’s doing, and we’ll make some decisions.
"It’s going to be an ongoing discussion. The window opens the end of June. Until then, we’ll see how the team develops and especially what we need short term and maybe longer term. We might do something short term, because we feel like we need to do it, and something different on the longer term because it might be something more we need in the future.”
Recent reports have surfaced out of Italy that may piece together a bigger picture. Last week, Italian greats Alessandro Nesta and Gianluca Zambrotta were linked to discussions with the New York Red Bulls. Today, Tuttosport reports that both players will be meeting with Red Bulls representatives this week.
"I still think we need to do maybe a change in the summer, so we are looking to do that," Soler said. “An addition that can really help us. As I say, when it comes to the long, big picture, (the Red Bulls young defenders) need more time and they are the future. We are going to build on them. I know Hans (Backe) is very, very happy with what they have done, and that’s what a coach needs.
"It could be (two players). We’ll look at all options and make some decisions. We’ll do it very simple – we’ll look at anything that can help this team win games and titles. Whatever it takes, we’ll try to do it. We have all the limitations – you guys know them better than me – so we have to work around them the way other teams do. We’re in a sensible position with allocations, so we still have the option to do one more thing."
MARQUEZ LIKELY TO START IN RETURN
Rafa Marquez, who has completed his three game suspension for breaking Shea Salinas' collarbone, will likely get the nod at the central defensive midfield spot for Wednesday night's home match against the Houston Dynamo.
Despite another character infraction, Soler still believes Marquez will be a vital part of the Red Bulls plans this year.
"I believe Rafa will be a very important player for us throughout this season," Soler said. "As long as he is on the field, he’ll do that. He has to be able to stay on the pitch."
Dax McCarty had been doing an admirable job filling that role, helping the Red Bulls to their first two clean sheets of the season.
"I think I’ve always been a guy that likes to put in the dirty work," McCarty said of his defensive duties. "I’m a little bit of a smaller guy but I love the scrap, I love the fight."
NEWS AND NOTES
- Backe revealed that Juan Agudelo would be available for action, and could see anywhere from 30-45 minutes of playing time. He made his return to the field from a torn meniscus as a late substitute against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.
- Roy Miller will also be available for selection against the Dynamo tomorrow, though he is not expected to start over rookie Connor Lade. After a light training session, he came off the pitch with a heavily bandaged and iced left knee.
- Though originally expected to be out 2-to-3 weeks, defender Stephen Keel will likely miss more time. A stress fracture hasn’t healed to the point where he could take part in light training, making it likely he would continue to be out of action for another 2-to-3 weeks.
- Jan Gunnar Solli and Mehdi Ballouchy suffered cramping issues in the match against Los Angeles, but both will be available for action tomorrow.
- Conde trained off to the side of the pitch, doing light jogging as the team played some small-sided games.