HARRISON, N.J. – It is, in Teemu Tainio’s own words, the start of a “very exciting adventure.”
The New York Red Bulls' latest addition comes to the club with a pedigree. He has played and thrived in the English Premier League and suited up for famed clubs such as Ajax. However, Tainio saw only a handful of appearances last year at the Dutch side and jumped at the chance to join the Red Bulls, which he calls "an ambitious club.”
“I came here because it is a new adventure, a very exciting adventure. It’s a challenge,” Tainio said. “The standard of play is high and the stadium here is amazing. I’ve enjoyed it so far, but I’m really looking forward to going out there and playing.”
The 31-year-old Tainio agreed to a contract two weeks ago after meeting the team in Mexico earlier in preseason for a trial. His paperwork and international clearance are in order and he hopes to be ready for Saturday’s season opener against Seattle.
[inline_node:328586]It remains to be seen where the versatile Tainio will play.
Originally, the player was brought in by head coach Hans Backe as a right back. Then in preseason matches, Tainio’s comfort on the ball began to show and Backe switched him to the midfield. He finished the preseason once again on the back line.
Backe won’t tip his hand on where he envisions Tainio playing this year, but the player has a gut feeling where he’ll work best.
“After the last friendly I played in, I talked with the coach,” Tainio said. “I don’t think the coach wants me to move around so I think it will be mainly just one place. I do feel that if you want to get the most out of me, you play me in the midfield in a central position.”
But even as a right back, Tainio has impressed, to the point that assistant coach Mike Petke was raving about the new signing. Himself a defender, Petke liked what he saw of Tainio along the back four, though he’s not certain that will be the player’s position this year.
“He can play three positions – two in the midfield and then the backline," Petke said. "He’s a technically gifted player. But I’m not sure if I can tell how good of a defender he is to be honest with you. His positioning is so good, I don’t think I saw him have to make tackles.”
That quality has resulted in 51 appearances with the Finnish national team for Tainio. But the Red Bulls are now his only focus moving forward.
“I’ve decided I won’t be playing for the national team anymore, only in an emergency would I consider it,” Tainio said. “I’ve been there with them for many years now and I don’t want all that travel. I want to focus here on being in New York with my new team.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer