Under gray skies and an air of expectation about Thursday’s announcement of a marquee signing, the Red Bulls took the practice field at Montclair State University for a chippy session.
The players seemed on edge a bit during the Tuesday morning session, a result of this past weekend’s disappointing scoreless draw against bottom-of-the-table D.C. United. The play in scrimmages and drills got physical and even a bit heated. Midfielder Joel Lindpere said it's OK and all part of the process.
“It’s about making right decisions, having the right work ethic in training,” Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “Even in training, when we have problems, we make sure to immediately make the corrections. That kind of communication is important so as not to make mistakes in games.”
Two players continued their recovery from injury and could be set for roles on Saturday in Columbus. Macoumba Kandji, who played the last 15 minutes against United last weekend, was very active in training on Tuesday, looking dangerous when partnered up top with Conor Chinn.
Closing in on full-game fitness, Kandji won’t be a part of the team’s Starting XI on Saturday, but once again should find himself on the bench as part of the gameday squad.
“He looks very good in training, I have to say,” head coach Hans Backe told MLSsoccer.com about Kandji’s recovery.
Back in training for a second full week since knee surgery, midfielder Carl Robinson had a full session with the team, including scrimmages and drills. Robinson participated mainly with the reserves and substitute players, holding down the center of the midfield along with Tony Tchani.
His movement was free and his touch was surprisingly sharp for a player still working his way back to fitness.
Backe said he thinks Robinson might make the bench for this weekend’s match. Defender Kevin Goldthwaite, who returned to training last week, continued his fitness work but also served in crosses to several of the forwards during the beginning of practice.
One noticeable absentee from the practice pitch was forward Salou Ibrahim, who started on Saturday against DC. According to Backe, Ibrahim has a lingering ankle issue which has followed him since signing with New York in the spring. Backe termed it a “soft injury.” In his place, Dane Richards worked up top for most of practice with Juan Pablo Angel, in addition to also getting some time on the wings.
As far as the rumors of a third Designated Player signing – in addition to the announcement of a second DP addition on Thursday – Backe remained optimistic. Two weeks ago, Backe told MLSsoccer.com that the team had targeted two central midfielders to bring in during this transfer window.
Early last week, the coach had been less than optimistic about potentially signing a midfielder. But following the D.C. United match, Backe said that a phone call with team’s sporting director on Friday gave him reason for hope.
“I think I can be rather confident about it, but I have no idea when it will be confirmed,” Backe said Tuesday.
Rumors have swirled on blogs and message boards that the players targeted are either Seattle’s Freddie Ljungberg or Barcelona’s Rafael Márquez. In past statements, Backe has told MLSsoccer.com that the targeted players in question were European-based, which would seem to rule out Seattle's Ljungberg.
When asked if the player wasn’t currently in Europe, Backe was non-commital.
“I won’t comment on that," he said. "We’ll have to wait and see."
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs. He can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012