Backe: Nielsen expected; Rodgers delayed

Danish winger could play this weekend, but English striker tricky

First-place New York is bullish on
its new additions to the club, namely left midfielder Brian Nielsen from
Denmark and English forward Luke Rodgers.

Head coach Hans Backe
thinks that these two additions will jump-start a New York attack that
has been sluggish at times, scoring just four goals in as many games.
One addition is expected sooner while another is still perhaps a good
two months away from arriving.

Backe expects the left midfielder
Nielsen to fly in on Wednesday night and be available to practice this
week. Noting that the player hasn’t seen much competitive action since
December, the New York head coach is confident that the new signing will
be see the field on Saturday afternoon against Philadelphia.

“I’m
not too sure he’s match-fit for the first game,” Backe said. “I still
think he’s good enough to make an impact.”

Taking into account a
“six- or seven-hour time difference” between Europe and New York, Backe
thinks the former Danish youth international will arrive Thursday
evening. If this is the case, Nielsen gets two practices in Thursday and
Friday, allowing him to acclimate to the new team.

But in
Backe’s mind, nothing other than games will get his newest signing
game-ready.

“Play him, play him all the time,” Backe said, adding
that even just two days of practice will let the player be game ready
enough in his eyes to help solidify the left side of the midfield. “I
think it’s enough to start the game.”

On Saturday, Nielsen will
become the fourth player to start for New York on the left wing.

Rodgers,
a forward from England, is a much thornier issue for New York, and
Backe doesn’t anticipate seeing the player at the team’s practice
facility at Montclair State University anytime soon. The major issue is a
problem with the visa, which “will take time -- weeks,” Backe said.
According to the coach, this could be sometime in June at the earliest.

“If we’re lucky, we’ll get the visa earlier,” Backe said.

The
coach conceded that the major hold-up in getting the proper clearance
for Rodgers stems from the player’s prior criminal record.

Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.