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Red Bulls newcomer Sam unavailable against Timbers

Lloyd Sam on trial with Red Bulls

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HARRISON, N.J. – Recent New York Red Bulls acquisition Lloyd Sam will have to wait at least another week before making his debut while the club awaits his international visa.

Head coach Hans Backe said Friday that he’s hopeful the visa will come in time for next week’s crucial clash with Sporting Kansas City and the former Leeds United and Notts County winger Sam is, too, despite not being fully fit after joining New York during the European offseason.

“I think I’m ready to just go straight in and see how I do,” said the 27-year-old Sam, who signed a half-season deal with options at the end of it. “There’s not that much time [in the season]. I have done a little bit [of fitness training] back in England and the training out here that the gaffer here does is quite hard. I got fit quite quickly.”

The Red Bulls host the Portland Timbers on Sunday (7 pm ET, Galavision).

Backe and Sam aren’t not the only ones eager for him to get on the field. Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry also expressed his desire to see Sam get in the mix to help a team that has lost much of its depth since the departure of speedy winger Dane Richards.

“We were kind of maybe lacking stuff coming from the wings because Dane was vital for us,” Henry said. “I know he left and everything, but when you look at what he did for us recently, especially the last two years, he has been a great asset. Having a player like Lloyd Sam being on the wing, that’s going to be vital for us.

“He’s a proper winger, like old school,” Henry said. “He stays down the line, one-two, very tricky. I think he can be a great asset.”

Whether Sam will be able to adjust to the style of play in MLS after spending much of his career in England remains to be seen, but he is champing at the bit to find out.

“I’m looking forward to tasting the real action now,” Sam said. “The MLS is what I really want a taste [of].” 

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