UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Luke Rodgers was the reason Juan Agudelo was unable to get more playing time with the New York Red Bulls in 2011, and he may be part of the reason why the club deemed Agudelo dispensable.
A day after trading the 19-year-old forward to Chivas USA, Red Bulls general manager Erik Solér revealed that New York are once again in discussions to see if Rodgers is able to earn a visa to play in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security twice denied Rodgers a visa earlier this year due to undisclosed incidences.
“I think we’re going to know quite quickly if it’s going to happen,” Solér told reporters following Friday’s training session. “We have started obviously to work on that again, and I keep in touch with people that work on that. We hope to have him back at the end of June when the window opens. But there is no guarantee, so we don’t want to end up with nothing.”
Rodgers, who currently plays for Norwegian club Lillestrom, may not have played in a single game for the Red Bulls this season, but his presence within the team is still very much alive.
The striker’s locker remains untouched inside the Red Bulls’ dressing room at Red Bull Arena, with name, number and a mini-me doll all still there.
“He knows the way we play, he knows [head coach Hans Backe], he knows Thierry [Henry], and the rest of the team,” said Solér. “That would be the best solution for us, obviously.”
If the Red Bulls are to get Rodgers back when the summer transfer window opens, they would reacquire a forward who scored nine goals in his only season in MLS last year. They would also address a need by adding another experienced player to the Red Bulls’ currently thin forward corps.
Until then, however, the club says it will make do with what it has.
“June is not a problem,” said Backe. “We will have a break soon after the Chivas [USA] game on Wednesday and then we have Chicago on June 17 and the window opens at the end June. We’re talking about three games, so it’s nothing.”
While Backe described the chances of Rodgers returning at 50-50, Solér said the team is more optimistic of getting him back than they were a couple of months ago.
“We think that every day that Luke doesn’t do anything [to] harm his chances,” said Solér, “it’s getting better.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.