RBNY Notebook: NY may pursue Rodgers replacement

Hans Backe and Erik Soler of the New York Red Bulls

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New York Red Bulls

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – It has been nearly two months, but the New York Red Bulls are still waiting for an answer on Luke Rodgers’ visa situation, which is still in limbo.

No real updates have come New York’s way in the past several weeks, and left with uncertainty over the outcome, the Red Bulls could soon replace the Englishman on a forward corps that is in dire need of depth.

“The window closes on April 15 so we have to do something before that if we haven’t gotten a final approval for him by then,” Red Bulls general manager Erik Solér told MLSsoccer.com after Wednesday’s practice. “We will still continue to work on him [after that date], but we will have to look for a replacement because Juan [Agudelo] is probably out a few more weeks [with a torn meniscus].”

Solér said the team is already looking at both domestic and foreign-based options, but admitted difficulty in acquiring someone within MLS that is of the caliber of Rodgers.

“We look at someone that’s in the league,” he said. “It’s always harder because if we want to replace Luke it has to be at a high level, so the problem is the ones that are there are not available.”

Asked when he expected an answer, Solér said a decision could come this week, though he was anything but optimistic.

“I hope so,” he said, “but I hoped the same a month ago.”

Tainio could return this week

The Red Bulls are relatively healthy heading into the fourth week of the season. The lone exceptions are Agudelo and midfielder Teemu Tainio.

Tainio and Agudelo are currently recovering from injuries picked up over the last two weeks. Tainio sustained a deep ankle bruise in New York’s loss to Real Salt Lake on March 17, while Agudelo picked up a meniscus tear in his left knee while with the US U-23 men’s national team last Thursday.

Agudelo’s timeframe for recovery is expected to be six weeks, but Tainio could be back as soon as Saturday the Red Bulls’ home match against the Montreal Impact.

“Teemu had a fitness test [on Wednesday],” head coach Hans Backe said. “He’ll probably go in for the warm-up tomorrow and then take it day by day.”

Backe pleased with Henry-Cooper pairing, Conde

Much of the spotlight after the Red Bulls’ 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids this past Sunday fell on Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper, and with good reason. The pair combined to score all four of the Red Bulls’ goals in the game, and Cooper put away New York’s only other goal of the season in the season opener.

“You’re happy when your strikers score the goals,” Backe said. “That’s what you’re looking for. Those guys, if they can keep going like this, and like I said they could use each others combinations quite well, and I think it will just improve.”

One other player who Backe is happy with is Wilman Conde, the Colombian center back who has spent much of the last year on the sidelines due to injury. Conde put in a solid 90-minute shift in the win over the Rapids, delivering an assist to Henry for the third goal in what was his Red Bulls debut and first MLS game since 2010.

“Definitely what I had hoped for after seeing him in 2010 with Chicago,” Backe said. “Being out for almost 10 months or something like that and perform as he did, that is massive. It’s not many players that can perform at that level when you’ve been out for such a long time.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.