Luke Rodgers is still not among the New York Red Bulls' ranks as the team descends on Arizona for the second phase of their preseason, and Hans Backe says the team is still in the dark as to when they might be joined by one of their key performers from 2011.
The Red Bulls head coach revealed on Wednesday that the team is still awaiting word on Rodgers' visa status, which has been slow to take shape due to the English striker's prior arrest record.
“We’re still waiting for an answer from the embassy about an appointment,” Backe told reporters during a conference call. “I haven’t talked to Luke today, but hopefully he can get an appointment this week so we know where we stand. We don't know much."
Rodgers scored nine goals last season, including four game-winners.
Still searching for third goalkeeper
A position where the Red Bulls might be relying on young players this season is in the nets. New York have invited Ray Burse, 27, and Phillip Tuttle, 24, as guest players for their camp in Tucson. Both may see minutes as the Red Bulls kick off their participation in the Desert Diamond Cup on Wednesday against Real Salt Lake, and on Thursday in a friendly against Mexican side Pumas UNAM in Phoenix.
“Todd Hoffard, our goalkeeper coach, has picked them for this preseason camp,” Backe said of the two 'keepers. “We haven’t played any games yet. We’ve only seen them a little bit in training session. … Let’s see tonight and tomorrow how they look [in] competitive games.”
Burse and Tuttle are expected to compete for a roster spot as the club’s third goalkeeper, but neither appears to be a safe bet to make the team unless they outperform offseason acquisitions Jeremy Vuolo and Ryan Meara.
“It’s a lot of pressure when you’re 21 and 24 years old and you don’t have the experience from top leagues,” said Backe. “In my mind, if we’re going to find a third one, it has to be a guy with a little bit more experience.”
Backe explains waiving Home Growns
The Red Bulls arrived a little bit lighter in Arizona after making the controversial decision to let go of Sacir Hot and Matt Kassell last week.
The decision to waive the former Home Grown signings was met with much scrutiny from fans and media, but Backe shed some light as to why it was made.
“At the moment, we just need to pick the 24, 25 best players,” Backe said. “These guys just need minutes to improve and develop. Hopefully, hopefully, they will do that this year and we can get them back. But as it looked now, not many minutes for them.”
Asked whether loan deals for each were contemplated, Backe revealed that technical director Ricardo Campos had checked and there was interest.
“We had two, three clubs that could be interested in these two guys,” said Backe. “So Ricardo has been, in a way, in charge and responsible to find clubs for them.”