Got the Moves Like SolerBy: Eric Giacometti | February 2nd, 2012
After what can only be described as a highly disappointing season in 2011, the Red Bulls, and more importantly their front office, certainly had their work cut out for them. A roster filled with so much talent but woefully underachieved had to be revamped somehow. And it was Erik Soler’s job to fit together the right pieces to assert New York as a top team once again. So obviously selling Tim Ream was the logical next step… Wait, what?
So yeah, we’re down an MLS All-Star at center back, but have no fear, in Soler we trust. Now remember, the centerback tandem that Backe rolled with for most of the 2011 season featured Ream alongside everyone’s favorite DP, Rafa Marquez. However, it’s been well documented that Backe plans on featuring the beleaguered Mexican international in the midfield (causing a bit of a discussion as to personnel at CM and possible formations, but that’s a topic for another day. What that essentially meant to Mr. Soler was that, lest he start Stephen Keel and Sacir Hot at center back on opening day, two more defenders were certainly on the Red Bulls wish list during the offseason.
The first pick up came from, where else, Scandinavia. The country of choice this time? Backe’s homeland of Sweden. Enter Markus Holgersson. I’m pretty sure his job is just to be tall… and I think he’ll be pretty good at that. The 6’ 2” Holgersson could prove to be a useful target for Red Bull set pieces, and perhaps more importantly, a stalwart on preventing set piece goals on the other end. And we all know how that went last year.
The second piece of the center back puzzle came in the form of Wilman Conde. Yeah, remember him? He was with the Fiiiii-yerrr from 2007-10 and an MLS Best XI defender in ’09. Everyone’s favorite tactician, JCO, brought him to MLS in ’07 and was rumored to make the switch to NY along with Osorio, but the deal never quite happened. Now he’s finally here, but which Conde will New York be getting? If healthy and at the top of his game, there’s no question he’d be critical piece in helping to solidify a leaky Red Bulls’ defense. Color me skeptical. I don’t know how healthy Conde will be nor his form, as he was not at his best last season in Mexico with Atlas. His play will go a long way to easing the pain of losing Ream to the Bolton Wanderers, or exacerbating it.
As for the 2012 SuperDraft, Soler continued to place little value in picking up up-and-coming college prospects as exemplified by trading yet another pick. This time, Soler got some insurance on the forward line after making a deal with Portland for Kenny Cooper. Cooper scored 8 goals in 34 appearances for the Timbers last season, but apparently Backe thinks his was mismanaged by John Spencer and that he will be much more effective in New York’s system. Backe claimed that Cooper was signed due to an uncertainty that Luke Rodgers and/or Juan Agudelo would return for the 2012 season (visa issues and transfer speculation, respectively). Now, the Red Bulls have a plethora of attacking options that allows for plenty of variability in formation and personnel choices, as stated earlier. Without the Gold Cup this year, Backe should have plenty of weapons at his disposal (safe from any injuries, or his own disdain of substitutions).