Holgersson feeling comfortable with new team, league

RBNY defender Markus Holgersson

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UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – It has been a little more than two months since Markus Holgersson left his home in Sweden to sign with the New York Red Bulls. That’s meant a short adjustment period as he gets acclimated to MLS, but the big defender feels it’s going well.

The reason for that is because Holgersson believes MLS is very similar to Sweden’s Allsvenskan, where he spent three seasons with Helsingborg prior to joining the Red Bulls this past January.

“[The difference is] not so big,” Holgersson told MLSsoccer.com. “Football is football. Soccer is soccer. We have bigger teams, 25 to 28 players [in MLS] and in Sweden, we have 20. Preseason is one-and-a-half months longer, but I think that was not a problem for me this year because I start earlier playing with my team in Sweden and then I came here, so it was maybe the same length.”

For Holgersson, the biggest difference between the two leagues is in the skill set of the players. Holgersson says that in MLS, players are more specialized in certain areas, while in Sweden, they are more well-rounded and tend to read the game more.

“Players are more, from the start of training, tactical,” said the 6-foot-2 center back. “Here you’ve got players that are a good passing player, they are fast, they are good to shot, but in Sweden you are better at more skills. Here, you have two, three skills you’re really good at. In Sweden, we think much more tactical. We’re thinking football.”

Holgersson, who helped Helsingborg become the first club to win the treble in Sweden last year, got his first taste of MLS action last weekend in a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas. He drew mixed reviews, though he did impress the person whose opinion matters most.

“The MLS style suits him,” said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. “A lot of 50-50s, he won most of them. I think he was quite composed in the passing game in our buildup, so that is what we expected in a way, that he’d play that solid.”

Holgersson was partially responsible for the first goal New York conceded, as he failed to properly clear a cross from the left flank.

Still, the 26 year old believes he and center back partner Stephen Keel fared well against an attack that included Blas Pérez and Brek Shea.

“We did good together,” said Holgersson. “[Keel’s] a good player and he’s a young player who is thinking. That guy I like, a thinking player.”

With center back Wilman Conde still sidelined with an injury, Holgersson and Keel are expected to start in New York’s next game on Saturday at Real Salt Lake (10 pm ET, MLS Live). They’ll face an attack that boasts players like Fabián Espíndola, Javier Morales and Álvaro Saborío.

It will be another tough test for the Red Bulls back line, but Holgersson is confident.

“I’m tactical and I think to read the game, so I can be in the place where the ball is to come,” said Holgersson. “Also physical, but that’s because I’m big like that.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com