One move down. Two more to go.
Days after New York Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh said he was trying to finalize three deals, the club acquired veteran forward Saer Sene in a trade with the New England Revolution on Tuesday.
The Red Bulls gave up talented but seldom-used striker Andre Akpan and allocation money in exchange but felt that Sene’s quality, versatility and experience was worth acquiring ahead of a busy final few months of the season that will see New York try to lock down a playoff spot and compete in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“With Saer, we’ve liked what he’s played over the past couple of years,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke via a conference call on Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t know what’s going on over there – there’s possibly a little friction between him and the organization or something – but he’s a good player. We wanted to get him in here and want him to be a very reliable, very good option off the bench to start and see where that takes him.”
Sene, 27, has had some bad luck with injuries the past couple of seasons. The Frenchman suffered a torn ACL toward the tail end of his inaugural campaign in MLS in 2012 and then sustained a bad ankle injury last October.
Petke, however, said the injury issues are a thing of the past for Sene, who is being looked at as an option up top behind MLS’ current top scorer in Bradley Wright-Phillips and assists leader in Thierry Henry, as well as on the outside. New York have had a season-long carousel at left midfield this season, and Sene could prove to be a perfect solution.
“I think he’s a very versatile player as far as attacking-wise,” said Petke. “I think a two-forward system suits him better than a lone-forward system that a lot of times you find New England was playing. Out wide, yes, he has the pace, he has the skill and he likes to get forward, which is something that I like. We want our attacking players to look to get forward first and then play the safe option second.
“At the end of the day, it’s a like-for-like trade. We feel like we got quality in this trade and somebody who has the experience and has shown in the past his ability to be very dangerous. Whether that be up top or whether that be out wide, we’re confident that we’re getting somebody that is going to help us out.”
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Sene, who scored 17 goals and delivered eight assists in his 59 regular-season matches with the Revolution, will join his new Red Bulls teammates in training on Wednesday. The club is currently on a bye week, so Sene will have a few extra days to acclimate to his new surroundings before possibly making his debut.
Still, his addition does not address some of the more pressing needs New York currently have. The club has struggled more defensively this year than offensively, and there is a chance that the other two moves Roxburgh is working on are more defensive-minded.
Petke refrained from offering any real clues, though.
“We have five center backs signed to the roster right now, we have three right backs and we have two left backs with one other player that could fill out at left back,” said Petke. “In order to make a move, we’d have to get rid of somebody. Like I said many times, my job is to coach the team. …
"I’m not going to relay any information or any heads up about what’s going on on that front. But Andy is working hard behind the scenes with [technical director Ricardo Campos] and figuring it out.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.