UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Just who will play in goal for the New York Red Bulls in 2012 remains one of the biggest issues for the club during their first week of preseason.
The team opened camp on Monday with only one goalkeeper on the roster in rookie Ryan Meara, and head coach Hans Backe confirmed the expected news that Designated Player Frank Rost will not return in net in 2012.
“He just had a contract for the end of the season,” Backe said of Rost, who appeared in 11 games last season and all three of the team’s MLS Cup playoff matches.
That leaves Meara, the local product from Fordham and the club’s only selection during last week’s MLS SuperDraft. He likely won’t be the only one in camp when the Red Bulls’ season begins on March 11 at FC Dallas. The team is still seeking an established, first-choice goalkeeper and the ideal target is a player who doesn’t require a transfer fee.
“Probably need some veteran,” Backe said. “It’s a very, very important position, so we’re looking for an established one here.”
Nielsen’s future unclear
Left winger Brian Nielsen has spent the past two seasons in New York, on loan from Red Bulls sister club in Salzburg. He was present during training with the team this week and said he was “very excited” to be back.
The plan is for Nielsen to participate in preseason training and then travel with the team to Mexico for the next leg of preparations. From there, an offer could be forthcoming to extend his stay, although it remains somewhat complicated.
Nielsen's contract is still owned by Salzburg and has one year left on a deal with the Austrian club. Despite prior reports from his agent saying that a loan deal has been struck to keep the player in New York, no contract exists between Nielsen and the MLS club and he’s technically considered a “guest player.”
Missing in action
Among the players missing from training this week are the newly acquired Kenny Cooper, who is on his honeymoon, and fellow forward Luke Rodgers, who is in England working on his return to the US.
Due to his prior arrest record, Rodgers’ application for a new visa has been slow to take shape.
“We haven’t heard anything yet,” Backe said. “In 10 days, we will have the answer.”
Search for a No. 10
Since dealing Dwayne De Rosario last summer, the Red Bulls have lacked a true creative spark in the midfield. Backe and sporting director Erik Solér are hopeful that a No. 10 will be coming to the team this season as the club’s third and final designated player.
No names were given or hints made, but it will be a European midfielder.
“We can be quite sure [there is] no No. 10 for the start of the season,” Backe said. “Perhaps in the summer, we have talked to a couple names, had negotiations with a couple names. I’m quite sure there will be no final decision before the league starts.”