Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By DAVE MARTINEZ
The New York Red Bulls were awaiting an update on the status of Luke Rodgers’ on-going attempts to secure a working visa this past Wednesday. What they received instead was an unwelcome wrinkle to the proceedings that leaves the Englishman’s fate as uncertain as it ever was.
"The problem right now is with another organization, Homeland (Security)," Coach Hans Backe revealed during Thursday’s media day gathering. "Yes, I think that’s the organization that will say yes or no."
Rodgers, who overstayed his one-year visa last summer, has been struggling to renew his status with the U.S. Embassy throughout the offseason. He has a criminal history that includes an assault charge on an opposing player after a hotly contested match and reckless endangerment when he lit a firecracker that hit a 16-year-old girl in the face, causing significant injuries.
According to Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler, these incidents were not the reason his visa was being contested. Instead, an unspecified “minor issue” which happened shortly before Rodgers obtained his visa last season seemed to be causing the hold up.
Regardless, the organization may put an end to the waiting game if there isn’t a resolution on the matter.
“We need to wait for an answer," Backe said. "We can’t start doing things without having an answer. I know I said we would have an answer in yesterday, everyone told me that. So if we didn’t get it yesterday, it will be in a few days, it will be definitely in a week.”
Asked just how long the organization would wait, Backe stated, "We need an answer by Sunday (of next week). The way these things are, it could be two weeks, it could be six months and we are well into the season."
According to Backe, the team has "two (specific) or a few" strikers they are currently targeting if Rodgers becomes unavailable, but they could not move on those fronts until his situation is resolved.
"We need to get a guy much similar to Luke," Backe said. "We have some names."
CONDE AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION
While the Red Bulls await final word on Rodgers, they are on the verge of welcoming Wilman Conde to the field.
Conde was not at practice Thursday, as the Colombian defender had to travel to Mexico to "sign a paper for his license" according to Backe, but he is expected to return to the club on Friday. Backe indicated that Conde would still be considered to play for this weekend's home opener. Through the first two games, the Red Bulls have relied on Stephen Keel and Markus Holgersson in central defense while they wait for Conde to get fit.
Conde, who hasn't played a first-team match in almost a year after needing surgery on his left instep was re-injured in the preseason, suffering a thigh strain.
RED BULLS TO PLAY TOTTENHAM
The Red Bulls announced a July 31 encounter against English power Tottenham, in a match dubbed the inaugural "New York Invitational Cup." The event will be held at Red Bull Arena and will be included into the season ticket holders package at no charge.
"Tottenham has been one of the top EPL teams over the past several years and we are thrilled to play host to them at Red Bull Arena," Red Bulls president of business operations Chris Heck said in a press release. "We are also excited to bring an elite international club as a reward for our season ticket holders and the supporters for both clubs."
The club plans on making an event of the match, offering exclusive meet-and-greet opportunities for their season ticket holders as well as an open practice invitation and autograph session.
NEWS AND NOTES
- Teemu Tainio, who suffered a heavy ankle bruise against Real Salt Lake last Saturday, will be evaluated by the training staff on Friday to see if he would be fit to join the team for the home opener. Rafa Marquez, who returns from a two-game suspension, is available to take his place in the lineup.
- Michael Ballack has been a hot button issue for the Red Bulls as of late. Asked to weigh in on the possibility of acquiring him, Thierry Henry simply stated, "Who wouldn’t like to play with Michael Ballack?"
- A pair of team sources claim the Red Bulls have sold as many as 23,000 seats for their home opener against Colorado on Sunday.