LAUDERHILL, Fla. – The aim is clear for the New York Red Bulls ahead of Thursday's 2013 SuperDraft: Shore up their midfield.
Currently in South Florida for the MLS Player Combine, the Red Bulls coaching staff has been busy identifying and talking to midfielders to potentially add to a roster that current only has four players – Designated Player Tim Cahill, Juninho Pernambucano, Dax McCarty and Lloyd Sam – under contract in that part of the field.
The only issue? New York do not possess a first round pick, having traded it for Kenny Cooper last offseason.
“We have a priority in the middle, we have secondary on the outside,” interim head coach Mike Petke (above) told MLSsoccer.com. “But at the 22nd pick, if a forward or outside back slips through the cracks that we really rated, it’s a decision we have to make at the time. But at that pick, we’re not looking for a superstar.”
The Red Bulls have had success in recent years picking up players in the second round. They selected center back Tim Ream in 2010 and chose goalkeeper Ryan Meara in 2012, and both those players enjoyed strong rookie campaigns. New York are hoping history repeats itself, but they know that finding a diamond in the rough will come down to some good fortune.
“We have five guys that we hope slip through. Other than those five guys, it’s going to be a draft-day decision,” said Petke. “We did interviews with these guys yesterday and we learned a lot about them personally and where their mindset and mentality is at, where they’d fit in with us.
“I’m hoping that one of these guys that we have slips through. If not, you’re going to see a show on the draft floor.”
Coaching decision imminent
The rumors have been swirling for a couple of weeks now about the Red Bulls' possible appointment of Paulo Sousa as head coach and Claudio Reyna as his No. 1 assistant, but the club would not confirm or deny the validity of those reports. What the Red Bulls did say, however, is that a final decision on who will guide the club in 2013 is looming.
“We want to announce it soon,” technical director Ricardo Campos told MLSsoccer.com. “As far as speculation, every possible coach in the world got linked to us. We will make the announcement soon and want to make it as soon as possible, but it has to be the right time. We feel like we’re choosing the right time. We feel like it’s the right guy and that’s the main thing.”
Campos added that he hopes the coach will be appointed by the time the club starts preseason training in Bradenton, Fla., on Jan. 22, but was not sure if that will be the case.
Petke full of praise for Lade
Connor Lade earned a surprise call-up to the US men’s national team training camp earlier this month, and the Red Bulls coaching staff believe the diminutive youngster fully deserved it after an solid rookie campaign in 2012.
In fact, they cannot say enough good things about him.
“It’s an early January camp and I think it’s important for Jurgen [Klinsmann] and the US team to get guys like Connor in, just to see them in that environment,” said Petke. “He obviously had a very successful first year and I think he’s earned the right to go to a January camp. From there, it depends on Jurgen and how he does in his second season.”
It is still unknown as to where Lade will play in 2013, however. Last season, he played at both fullback spots as well as on the left side of midfield and there has been much debate as to what best suits his skills.
“Where do I think his best position is? I liked him at outside back,” said Petke, “But I also enjoyed when he was in midfield. He started out pressing very well and was just very aggressive."