UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – When Lloyd Sam initially heard about the interest the New York Red Bulls had in him, his feelings were lukewarm. That all changed, however, because of Luke Rodgers.
Training with Sam at English club Portsmouth earlier this summer, Rodgers was around Sam when the latter found out about the Red Bulls being keen on bringing him stateside for a trial. Rodgers, a former player for New York, did not hesitate to immediately tell Sam what a big opportunity he had in front of him and he basically convinced the 27-year-old to jump at the chance.
“When I spoke to Luke, he said he’d come back here for free,” Sam told reporters on Thursday. “You could imagine how he was talking about; massive praise. He was probably a key, influential person in me coming because I’ve had a couple offers back in England, too, so I had to weigh it up. But when I spoke to him, he convinced me. He loved it out here.”
Sam, who describes himself as a player who tries to create goals and get in behind defenses on and off the dribble, has spent the past few days training with New York. And he has made a good impression on players and coaches around the club.
Likewise, he has also come away impressed with the quality of the Red Bulls and his potential new teammates.
“They welcomed me in quite well,” Sam said. “I kind of knew a couple of the players, like Tim Cahill from England and Thierry [Henry]. I didn’t know them, know them, but we know of each other. I’ve got along with quite a lot of them and it’s been a good feel. The quality’s been good on the pitch, training has been good, so I’m enjoying myself.”
The outside midfielder, who would provide a much-needed option on the flank for New York, is expected to play for the Red Bulls in a Reserve League match against D.C. United on Aug. 13. That, according to head coach Hans Backe, is where Sam can really make a lasting impression and following the game a decision will be made as to whether or not to keep him.
“He’s done decent, also coming from an offseason, he hardly did two weeks with Portsmouth and then had 10 days off, so it’s not really fair,” said Backe. “But he’s done quite well in our training sessions. That’s [the case with most] trialists coming, they can do just one week flying, so we’ll see on Monday how he does with the reserves.”
Sam admitted he is hoping to impress in that game and sign a deal with New York in the near future, as he is growing fonder of the team and city that he likely would have turned down had it not been for Rodgers.
“It’s a great city as everyone knows,” said Sam. “Obviously, I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t want to stick around, so hopefully it all works out.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.