Landing a creative midfielder was an objective laid out by New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke when the offseason began, but the search for that type of player is not necessarily close to being complete.
Petke spoke to reporters on a conference call on Thursday and touched on a myriad of topics, including the potential signing of an attacking player capable of unlocking defenses and setting up teammates. The Red Bulls manager said the club had taken steps forward in that regard, but that there was nothing concrete to discuss. Basically, the hunt is still on.
“We’ve made some progress, and we’re still looking as well,” said Petke. “We’re not concerned whatsoever [about the timing of a signing]. With preseason so long, you have to remember that guys – and I’m not saying these are the creative guys – like Eric Alexander and Jonny Steele were picked up during the [latter parts of the 2013] preseason, and these guys went on to have great seasons.
“We’re not concerned, we’re not rushing to judgement or rushing to pick someone up," Petke said. "We feel that with who we’ve had an eye on and hopefully other things will come up, that if we do decide to grab somebody, it will be the right person. But again, you have to go back to the salary cap; that’s why we have had to get rid of certain players and we need to make sure that we have the money to get the right person. We’re still working that out and we still have our eyes open.”
Petke added that any potential acquisition could come from either within the league or outside of it. Petke stated that he and the club have no preference as far as that is concerned, but said that there is a degree of difficulty in nabbing a player who is currently on another MLS team.
“The problem with coming from within the league … we have to be willing to give up something valuable,” said Petke. “There were many times last year that we had our eyes on someone in the league, and before you know it, [other teams] are asking over the moon for him, for two key starters for him. That’s counterproductive with what we want to accomplish.
“It’s a lot easier if you’re a team that’s rebuilding completely or finished extremely low that you know you can take those chances. But like I said, I’m not about to disrupt the quality that I think we have in this team and the chemistry we’ve built up over a year to bring someone new that we think could be good but giving up something that is obviously valuable to us. It’s difficult within the league, but not impossible.”
While signing a creative midfielder may seem like one priority, even with preseason set to start in a few weeks, so too is the capture of another center back.
The Red Bulls released veteran defender Markus Holgersson last week primarily because of financial reasons, according to Petke, and currently have only three center backs on their roster in Jamison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya and teenager Matt Miazga.
“Of course, we need to add one more for depth reasons,” said Petke. “That’s not to say we’re going out looking for a superstar centerback. We’re comfortable with what we have with, which is Ibra and Olave, who are very good players. Olave, like I’ve said and I can’t say enough about him, I think he’s the best pure defender in the league. Ibra with all his experience and he’s done well for us. Matt Miazga with the high hopes we have. But yes, I think it would be silly if we’re not looking to add a fourth option [for] depth.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.