If a good first impression matters, New York Red Bulls center back Armando is making quite the statement.
Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke spoke with reporters shortly after his club fell 2-0 to the University of South Florida to wrap up the first phase of their preseason in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, and he discussed how several of the club’s latest acquisitions and trialists have fared.
The one player Petke really gushed about was Armando, the 29-year-old Spanish center back who recently signed with the club. Petke started out by saying Armando was “absolutely” what New York was hoping for when they signed him before catching himself and tempering expectations a bit.
Still, Petke’s enthusiasm in the 6-foot-2 defender was crystal clear.
“He has not only adapted well, you could tell all the reports that we’ve got – forget about his playing – specifically about his character, his leadership ability, have been very true,” said Petke. “He’s fit in very nicely, guys have accepted him and he’s adapted well to our environment and he’s a hard player.
“We’re very happy to have him in right now and it looks like that if he does continue to show for the duration of his contract what he’s shown so far in a short time, it’s going to be a very good experience for him in MLS and for us as well.”
As impressed as Petke was, he did not flat out say that Armando was in contention for a starting spot. But he did not rule out that possibility either.
"So far he’s shown everything we were hoping he would do," said Petke. “Does that mean he’ll be a starter? Does that mean he will continue to play like that? Does that mean he will be a big player in this league? Only time will tell."
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Another player who has impressed the Red Bulls coaching staff is trialist left back Tyler Polak. The 21-year-old Polak, who spent the past two years with the New England Revolution, will join New York for the second part of their preseason preparations in Jacksonville, Fla., next week after showing well in Orlando.
“He’s somebody who I remember at the combine [in 2012] being impressed with and he’s done some good things,” said Petke of the former Generation adidas player. “Has he done enough for us to jump on him right now and sign him to a contract? No, but he’s done enough that we want him to come back in camp for the remainder and continue to take a look at him.”
One trialist who will not be back with the club is Miguel Ibarra, the New York-born defender who most recently played for Ecuadorian side Deportivo Quito. Petke said Ibarra showed some qualities, but that the club did not feel the need to keep him over right back options Kosuke Kimura, Richard Eckersley and rookie Chris Duvall.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.