UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — New York Red Bulls midfielder Teemu Tainio isn’t worried about the addition of another holding midfielder to the roster in Dax McCarty.
Tainio, who came to the Red Bulls from Dutch juggernaut Ajax before the season began, has been a revelation in his first campaign with New York. The former Finnish international’s aggressive tackling, pinpoint distribution from distance and ability to switch the field at will have made him instrumental in the center of the park for the Red Bulls.
Last week’s trade that sent attacking midfielder Dwayne De Rosario to D.C. United for McCarty, however, has made the bottom of New York’s box midfield a bit crowded. And Tainio, for his part, is keen to begin working with McCarty.
“I think he is a good player; I have played with him just the one game, but he’s a good player,” Tainio told MLSsoccer.com. “I think we’re similar in styles. He’s a bit more offensive-minded than I am, so it should work when we decide to push up. I don’t see any problems with it. It will be important to communicate so that when one goes forward, another stays back a little and covers.”
That’s part of the plan, at least as expressed by head coach Hans Backe and sporting director Erik Solér. Like they did last year when Rafa Márquez and Tony Tchani were partnered as holding midfielders, New York will roll out a Starting XI with two deep-lying players at the bottom of the midfield. This will allow the wing players in the midfield and the backline to push forward and overlap more.
The concept it appealing to Tainio and he doesn’t see it as an infringement on his turf.
“I have played with this before and it’s not a problem really,” Tainio said. “We both find space and work well together, we can [then] win the ball and push it up the field.”
Red Bulls Getting Healthy
Forward Luke Rodgers, who missed the entirety of the team’s four-game road trip, is set to return to the matchday roster for Wednesday night against Toronto. The Red Bulls also welcome the return of Thierry Henry, who missed the July 2 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes with the flu, and Jan Gunnar Solli, who subbed out after a second-half hamstring injury.
Tainio, who is suffering from a “nagging” groin injury, should be ready for selection this week as well, although the midfielder did not train on Tuesday.
“Both are ready — both Teemu and Luke are ready to get involved,” Backe said.
Solli is set for a return as well.
“He will play,” Backe said before adding with a laugh. “He’s Norwegian, just give him some hydration.”
New York have conceded 10 goals over their past four regular season games, and recent statements by Solér indicate that the team has targeted a goalkeeper to add during the upcoming summer transfer window. In the meantime, Backe is faced with the challenge of picking between Greg Sutton and Bouna Coundoul as his starting ‘keeper.
“It’s not the ideal situation,” Backe said. “No one as a coach wants to change goalies every other game.”
Captain Thierry Henry said he hasn’t spoken to the goalkeepers, but his heart goes out to them.
“I wouldn’t like to be a goalkeeper,” Henry said. “When you make a mistake, the whole stadium is looking at you.”
Backe is aware of Toronto FC’s newest signing, Torsten Frings. The former German international will be a key to the Reds midfield, Backe says.
“Tons of experience,” Backe said. “Frings played almost every game at holding midfield [last year] for Werder Bremen.”
Not Christmas in July
The Red Bulls have had a number of goal gaffes and blunders since May and on their recent road trip, three of their four games saw the side concede multiple goals. For a defense that was the best in MLS last year, it is a troublesome trend.
“I know it is not Christmas,” Henry said. “I don’t know why we’re giving gifts away.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer