WALDWICK, N.J. – It was somewhat fitting that the New York Red Bulls' newest man, Jan Gunnar Solli, made his first MLS remarks on Tuesday in the state that gave us Bruce Springsteen and his anthemic hit, “Born To Run.”
“I can’t wait to step on the pitch and run some miles,” Solli said following the team’s first training session. “I can be a running mid. The player who goes box to box.”
The Norwegian international has had a successful career that has seen him play for some of the most prestigious clubs in Scandinavia. He’s a versatile player who can contribute on the wings, as a central midfielder or even along the back line. He boasts a good touch and good technical sense.
Repeatedly during his first session with the local media, Solli talked about working hard and, well, running. Solli comes to the Red Bulls with a reputation as a workhorse who logs lots of distance on the field, playing from end to end.
Last year, sporting director Erik Solér and head coach Hans Backe brought in Estonian international Joel Lindpere, a player who immediately impressed with his high work rate and his willingness to log countless runs up and down the field.
Solli is set to challenge Lindpere as a player who covers more than his fair share of turf.
He prides himself, he said, on making runs to open up space for other players. This should be something exciting for New York fans because last year, having Thierry Henry opened up space for Dane Richards, who benefitted with a scintillating August and September.
Based on his last season, Solli sees himself in the midfield, though he concedes that he can play along the backline as well. On Tuesday, Backe said that Solli’s versatility is key to his signing but that right now, he sees the player as a “right-half” in the midfield.
Solli said he watched MLS on television in his native Norway and that he was impressed with the quality of the league. The reason for his move as a 29-year-old was to find a “new challenge.”
And it didn’t hurt that Solli can fit into the Red Bulls system.
“Of course they wanted me here,” Solli said. “That’s a big reason for the move.”
He toured Red Bull Arena several weeks ago when he had his physical, leaving the club’s home impressed with what he saw. Tuesday afforded him the chance to check out his new teammates and he sees that, “There are some really good players here on this team.”
The standard of play, he says, is much better than what most Europeans expect from an American league.
“It is really professional,” Solli said. “I think it is a step up for me.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer