Heading into the 2011 season, while fans and pundits will state their case for the Red Bulls’ best starting lineup come the MLS opener against Seattle Sounders FC on March 19 (BUY TICKETS), second year midfielder Tony Tchani has driven himself into the discussion after a strong rookie campaign.
Tchani, the second overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, impressed with his two-way ability in the center of the park, eventually forming a partnership at times with Designated Player Rafa Marquez.
However, the former University of Virginia standout did not have the smoothest of starts. In the team’s first trip to La Manga, Spain, Tchani was forced to miss it due to immigration issues. And coming into the season, he had to fight hard for a role.
“I don’t like to grade myself but I think I did OK based on what the coach said to me after the season,” Tchani said “But I hope to have a better season this year.”
When Tchani first joined the team, New York head coach Hans Backe constantly harped onn Tchani to look to pass the ball forward when in possession. To hammer this point home, Backe would give the other team the ball in small sided scrimmages if Tchani passed the ball backwards or laterally.
Eventually, Tchani’s raw athleticism and talent did not go unnoticed, as he went on to appear in 27 games for New York. Backe’s persistence regarding the 21-year-old’s distribution helped, as evidenced in Tchani’s deft chip that led to Joel Lindpere’s Eastern Conference-clinching goal in a 2-0 win over New England in the last regular season match of the 2010 season.
This season, Tchani enters into a spirited competition for a starting role after playing centrally in both a 4-4-2 and the occasional 4-2-3-1 that the team played towards the end of the season. Wherever he is, Tchani is confident that the Red Bulls will be able to take the next step.
“I think this year, we’re looking for that championship and hopefully we can make it there and win it,” he said.
STAT OF THE DAY
2 – The amount of players on the team that either come from Pennsylvania or Wisconsin – the two states that are represented in today’s Super Bowl. Those two are Chris Albright and Corey Hertzog, both from Pennsylvanian.
- The team had another two-session day. The morning training session on the pitch was one of the toughest the team will face all preseason, featuring 8v8 matches and a long fitness session. With temperatures in the 80s, many players were commenting about the heat and humidity.
- Some good plays in training today with rookie Corey Hertzog hitting a 25-yard blast into the top right corner of the goal while goalkeeper Greg Sutton making a few acrobatic saves. At the end of the session, the competitive 8v8 scrimmage game between three different sides had to be settled by penalties as Juan Agudelo hit the winning spot kick for the blue team.
- Although it was unclear on whether they would be called into the squad, the cancellation of the U.S.’ friendly against Egypt this week could have been a blessing in disguise for Backe and recent National Team debutants Tim Ream and Agudelo. Due to their involvement with the National Team (and in Agudelo’s case, the Under-20s as well), both players are in top shape in this camp and can start developing chemistry with their new and old teammates.
- Speaking about Ream, who a year ago came into camp as a fairly unknown rookie, he said recently that he feels more responsibility to step into a leadership role despite the fact that he is only in his second professional season. Thus, an area he is constantly trying to work on? Communication.
- Make sure you check out yesterday’s Daily Update (WATCH), as we spoke with Backe and midfielder/defender Danleigh Borman. We’ll have another one later today with Jan Gunnar Solli and Tyler Lassiter.
- Also, we spoke to our team equipment managers as they packed for this 12-day trip in this VIDEO. Just to give perspective on the amount they have to prepare, the team checked in 32 bags of equipment. This does not include any fitness or medical equipment!