Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By DAVE MARTINEZ
After months of speculation and weeks of waiting, the Luke Rodgers visa situation has finally been resolved – and it’s not the outcome that the New York Red Bulls wanted.
The Red Bulls announced Friday that the Englishman’s permit was denied indefinitely, and his contract has been terminated as a result in order to free the club of his international roster spot and salary and allow him to play for another team.
“After going through the entire immigration and appeals process, Luke's P-1 Visa application has unfortunately been denied by the U.S. government for now," the club wrote in a statement. "We have spoken with Luke about potential options and have mutually decided that it would be in all parties' best interests to terminate his current MLS contract so he could play elsewhere. However, we will also continue to track his progress this year while working with immigration officials with the goal that he could join the Red Bulls sometime in the future."
Rodgers' initial P-1 application was rejected, and an appeal of the ruling landed at the desk of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For Rodgers, this wasn’t the first time he struggled to acquire a work permit. Just last season, his initial application was rejected due to an extensive criminal record back in England. He was eventually granted a one-year permit, which he overstayed, throwing him into his current predicament.
This time, he was not so lucky.
Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler denied that Rodgers’ criminal record was the reason for this particular rejection, but rather, a previously undisclosed issue that occurred just prior to his arrival stateside that put his application in jeopardy.
For weeks, both coach Hans Backe and Soler have hinted that they have certain replacement options available to pursue in case the Rodgers situation did not pan out. Soler reiterated that on Friday.
"We work on both (MLS and overseas options)," Soler said. "We have a continuous list of players in all positions that we look at and evaluate, and of course we have strikers as well. Some of them are (domestic), some of them are foreign as well. We have a little bit of space, in the cap we have space, in the number of players as well so we try all the time to try to develop the roster as much as we can."
When asked whether New York would be active leading up to the April 15 transfer deadline, Soler said, "Not much, but it could be one or two players."
Though New York found its offensive touch through Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper against Colorado last weekend, there is no telling whether that will last, especially with Juan Agudelo ruled out for the next six weeks after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus.
In Rodgers, the Red Bulls had a proven goal scoring threat that yielded results both individually and for the team as a whole. Through 20 regular season starts with the club, Rodgers scored nine goals and led the team to an impressive 9-4-7 record. New York only earned a single victory without him all of last season.
What do you think of this development? Do you think New York be able to contend without Rodgers?
Share your thoughts below.