Red Bulls switch direction and draft attackers

After
spending the day before the SuperDraft discussing the need to add a right back
and a center back to their team, the New York Red Bulls surprised everyone by selecting
a forward and a midfielder with their first two picks.

With the No. 13 pick in
Thursday’s MLS Super Draft, New York took Penn State forward Corey Hertzog, a
player who led the Big Ten in scoring in 2009 and then topped that feat by leading
the NCAA in goals last year with 20 tallies.

And
after lamenting his club's lack of speed options up top, Red
Bulls head coach Hans Backe added a player who ran track in college and boasts a good upside, turning 21-years-old this August.

“[He
had] a solid three games at the Combine,” Backe said. “He played wide and he also
played as a striker. Physically very strong, hard working, honest brave
striker. Probably in the beginning we’ll try to play wide right.”

Hertzog
was excited to join the Red Bulls and met Backe and sporting director Erik
Soler for the first time on Thursday after his selection. While he pondered it
before the draft, it finally dawned on the former college star that he will now
be playing alongside of one of the best strikers to ever play the game.

“All
my friends at home are like, 'What if you go to New York and had the chance to
play with Thierry Henry?'” Hertzog said. “I don’t even know what I’d do. I’m
excited to meet him let alone play with him.”

Then
next selection was a bit of a surprise for the Red Bulls, who once again went
with an attacking player.
Backe and Soler selected John Rooney, the younger brother of English star Wayne
Rooney and a player with experience in England's lower leagues. Backe rated him as one of
the three best midfielders in the draft and was surprised to select him in the
second round.

WATCH: Rooney highlights

“He’s
a box to box player, he has a good understanding of the game and he's an excellent passer of the
ball,” Backe said. “I rated him very high in the Combine.”

Rooney
calls himself a “goal-scoring midfielder” and celebrated the selection with his
family, who were in attendance in Baltimore at the draft. Like Hertzog, Rooney
met Backe and Soler for the first time on Thursday. He admitted that he’s never
been to New York but is looking forward to making an impact for the Red Bull
Arena club.

“I’m
quick, I’m crafty and I can put the ball in the back of the net,” Rooney said.
“Hopefully I can do that for them.”

After
Rooney, the Red Bulls used their other second round pick on defender Tyler
Lassiter. The North Carolina State product drew comparisons from Backe to the
club’s second round pick from last year, who turned out to be a Rookie of the Year candidate.

“He’s almost a copy of Tim Ream," Backe said.
"Taylor’s the same, he’s very comfortable on the ball coming up from the back
four, reads the game very well, exactly as Tim Ream."

The Red Bulls
third round selection was Billy Cortes. Backe said the player would compete
with Chris Albright at right back.

Kristian R. Dyer can
be followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012


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