The return of the Monday Morning Gaffer explores the pressing themes emerging from the Red Bulls this offseason. With two wins in Mexico, New York are unbeaten under head coach Hans Backe in preseason play. Here's a look at four impressions and trends for New York through the early stages of preseason:
Solli is a starter
Last year the Red Bulls made a late push to bring in Norwegian international Jan Gunnar Solli, a move that was nixed by his club at the time, SK Brann. The versatile Solli can play on either wing in midfield, centrally as a box-to-box type midfielder and can even at right back. One thing for sure, though, is that Solli is fit. Despite a long layoff while awaiting a move to America, Solli has been among the most physically ready players this preseason.
He’s also started the first two games of preseason, showing that Backe trusts his playing style. Solli isn’t a creative midfielder, but he’s someone who opens up space with his movement, meaning that Dane Richards should enjoy extra room to operate.
[inline_node:319730]Márquez the marker
It is official: Designated Player Rafa Márquez is a defender once again. Upon his arrival last August, Márquez was slotted into the midfield as a holding player. The idea was the Márquez's vision would spring the counterattack and he could move forward at will, but the captain of the Mexican national team rarely looked comfortable that far up the field. Márquez, who for both club and country over the past few years has played as a center back, has played on the back four in the past two preseason games.
His ability to distribute and create possession will be an asset next to Tim Ream and should give the Red Bulls one of the best center back pairings in the league in terms of vision.
Last year the Red Bulls had the second oldest lineup in the league, but there has been a bit a youth movement this offseason, even as Backe has added veteran players like Solli and English forward Luke Rodgers to the mix. Last week, in a friendly win over Atlante, the Red Bulls got goals from academy signing Matt Kassel and SuperDraft first round selection Corey Hertzog, who has gotten some positive reviews from Backe. Draftee Tyler Lassiter could also provide cover in central defense.
And we haven’t even mentioned the solid marks from second-year midfielder Tony Tchani, who has started both preseason games, and teenage sensation Juan Agudelo, who looks set for prominent minutes this year.
At the end of the 2010 campaign, Backe stated his goal was to build a deeper roster in which there is competition at every position and that boasts moveable parts and pieces. He seems keen to do just that, and the final piece to that competitive balance is apparently Teemu Tainio. The Finnish international is being touted as a right back, though most of his experience is in the midfield and he’s a solid technical player who, like Solli, covers lots of territory.
Adding a player like Tainio might force incumbent right back Chris Albright out of the starting XI, but the increased competition and versatility will benefit the entire team.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer