NEW YORK — It won’t be an offseason of huge overhauls for the Red Bulls, but there will be some changes.
In a conference call with the New York media on Thursday morning, Red Bulls sporting director Erik Soler said he's currently looking at a number of players to come in and join the team next season, but plans on retaining several players from 2011, including two midfielders and a defender.
One of the two midfielders is Estonian international Joel Lindpere, who earned All-Star honors in his second season in the league.
“We have an option on Joel. He scored nine goals, had 10 assists. I don’t see too many reasons to not pick up that option,” Soler said. “I need to speak to Joel, make sure he wants to stay. I have met players, 22 players, in individual meetings the past three days. I will meet Joel when he’s back from international duty. He’s obviously in our plans. He’s done excellent since he came here.”
Soler hopes the hard working winger will be joined back on the roster by Designated Player Rafa Márquez, even as rumors continue to swirl that the Mexico stalwart will return to his home country to play for Atlas. Soler said he had a two-hour meeting with Márquez on Wednesday, where they “shared our common frustration, both ways.”
Márquez was suspended by the team mid-September and then earned a three-match ban for his role in a melee following the first leg of the playoff series against the LA Galaxy. He was signed last August and has been deployed as both a defender and in the midfield throughout his stay in New York.
“I’m very confident we’ll have Rafa Márquez back next season; he’s an excellent athlete, a great player both ways," Soler said. "Anyone’s career has ups and downs. I'm happy to have him back. I really appreciated what he can bring to us, and I’m thrilled he’ll be here.’’
Soler said he was pleased with what Márquez can bring to the team in terms of his defending but also his vision.
“Rafa is not only a defender. At his best, he’s an excellent passer of the ball. He is a guy that can start the attack, do the surprise parts, play directly out of the back,” Soler said. “We look upon him as just as much an asset to our offensive part of the game. We wouldn’t spend money on someone to purely defend.”
The other potential moving piece on the Red Bulls roster is midfielder Brian Nielsen, who played just once this season while struggling with knee and groin injuries. Nielsen told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday that he wants to return to the team, and Soler is keen to make that happen.
“I think he can be an asset to the team. We hope that we can bring him back,” Soler said. “We think Brian now is 98 percent. He’s a great talent and can bring something to the team.
"We also must discuss with Salzburg because this is a co-operation with Salzburg; they really like him as well. We have to see if he’s going to come and play for us or Salzburg. I hope it’s going to be here. Then we can give him a few months to see if he can get rid of those injuries.”