HANOVER, NJ - On Monday, defender Richard Eckersley joined his new teammates at training for the first time at Red Bull Training Facility as the squad continued their preparations for the 2014 campaign. Eckersley, who the Red Bulls acquired on Jan. 27 from Toronto FC in exchange for New York’s 2017 MLS SuperDraft fourth round pick, was missing from the team’s first camp in Orlando as he was awaiting approval for his P-1 Visa. He traveled with the team to Jacksonville Tuesday in advance of their preseason match against the Philadelphia Union Wednesday at 6:00 PM at EverBank Field.
When asked about his first training session with his new team, the 24-year-old described it as being much like the first day of school and looks forward to playing for New York, a team he had always seen as a challenging opponent on the pitch.
“It was good [his first day of training]. It’s always like a first day of school when you’re getting to know the guys,” said Eckersley. “With Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry, world-class players, it’s going to be exciting and I can’t wait to get started. I’m really pleased with the standard so far and it’s only been the first training session.”
Eckersley was a consistent face on Toronto’s backline over the last three seasons, appearing in 72 matches and being named to Toronto’s starting eleven 70 times. He appeared in 16 games for Toronto last season, all of which were starts. The Englishman’s versatility and willingness to play at any position on the backline will provide Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke with another option on defense, which will come into play with the team participating in regular season, U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League play this year.
“I’m just energetic, I like to play out of the back if I can. Right back I prefer - obviously I’m right footed - but I don’t mind left back as well, left back is just as good, center back if I need to fill in there, I don’t mind either,” Eckersley explained.
Eckersley started his career at Manchester United’s academy program before progressing to Manchester United’s reserve side in 2007. He made two first team appearances for United from 2007-09. The versatile defender earned the first medal of his career when he was named to the 18-man roster for United’s League Cup Final victory over Tottenham Hotspur in March 2009.
Eckersley moved to Major League Soccer when he joined Toronto FC on loan from English side Burnley in April 2011. He played for Burnley from 2009-11 and was part of loan deals at English clubs Plymouth Argyle (2010), Bradford City (2011) and Bury (2011).
Eckersley was impressed with the Red Bulls squad following his first session held at the facility's outdoor heated pitch.
“It’s got strength and depth, you can see that even just in training,” Eckersley said. “I’m really pleased with the standard so far and it’s only been the first training session and like I said, I can’t wait to get down to Jacksonville to see them play again.”