Thursday was a good day for Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe, who witnessed forward Juan Pablo Ángel participate in his first full training session in several weeks.
Backe also welcomed the news that the New York Red Bulls have officially signed Ghananian born forward Ibrahim Salou. The 30-year-old Salou is a veteran of several European teams, including Belgian powerhouse Club Brugge and Bundesliga side MSV Duisburg.
Salou, who holds dual citizenship in his native Ghana and Belgium, will be unavailable for this Saturday’s opener against Chicago. A team source stated that his paperwork could keep him out for “several weeks.”
The forward has been on trial with the Red Bulls for much of the team’s preseason. He started and played 67 minutes as New York opened Red Bull Arena last Saturday night with a 3-1 win over Brazilian club Santos. He registered two shots on goal and partnered well with fellow striker Mac Kandji.
Ángel said he was excited at the prospects of partnering with the 6-foot-4" Salou, saying that the forward is going to be “a handful for other teams.” The Colombian striker cautioned that it may take some time for Salou to adjust to the league and his new surroundings.
For his part, Salou said that he’s having a great time in the New York area, where he says everything seems “extra, extra large” compared to what he’s used to in Europe. He’s fully aware that 2009 was a struggle for the Red Bulls, who finished last in the league.
“I have heard about [last year’s finish] and it wasn’t so positive,” Salou said. “[But I’m here] to turn this around and to make something positive.”
A strong and powerfully built striker, Salou showed a willingness to battle for balls and hold possession, using his frame to shed defenders on several occasions in the friendly against Santos. Angel called him “powerful” but Salou also delighted the crowd with his quick moves near the goal.
Salou got the sold-out crowd at the Santos match into it with several scoring chances, but he also fed off the noise from the stands. In fact, playing at Red Bull Arena and the atmosphere reminded the forward of when he was in England and played at White Hart Lane.
“It felt just like when I played at Tottenham,” Salou quipped.