UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — It has been more than a year since Red Bulls fans have seen Brian Nielsen on the playing field, his last appearance in a US Open Cup loss to Harrisburg in June of 2010.
Since then, the former Danish U-21 international has been through two knee surgeries and plenty of rehab in a bid to rejoin his New York teammates. Nielsen, who signed with the Red Bulls last spring, has been limited to a bare handful of appearances with the club and is a nearly permanent fixture on the injured list.
But that may be about to change. Nielsen has been training with the team for the last week. On Wednesday morning, he participated in possession games before going off to work with a trainer on strengthening his knee muscles. As he walked off the practice field at Montclair State University, Nielsen moved without pain despite having a bag of ice wrapped around his right knee.
“I’m feeling good, feeling better now,” Nielsen told MLSsoccer.com. “I’ve been back for about a week now with the team and I feel good. No pain, really.”
The pending return of Nielsen would be a boost to a Red Bulls team that could use another dynamic player off the bench in the attack. Without a true No. 10 in their roster, Nielsen’s one-on-one ability and creativity would be a welcome addition to a lineup that all too often goes stagnant when the game’s not flowing through Thierry Henry or Joel Lindpere.
Nielsen hopes that his return is sooner rather than later.
“I don’t know, I hope this season, we’ll see,” Nieslen said. “My goal is to try and be ready, fit for the final eight games of the season. That’s my goal.”
Nielsen’s gradual return to the Red Bulls’ first team provides a new wrinkle to the club’s offense and gives the team a true winger for the attack.
“It is good to have him, so far so good,” assistant coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen said. “I haven’t talked with the medical staff yet but we hope maybe the last six, maybe seven games he can be ready to join us and play. That would be good.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer