BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Nineteen days ago, Mike Petke was officially named the New York Red Bulls head coach. Eighteen days from today, they kick off their season against the Portland Timbers.
Needless to say, the team has a lot of catching up to do.
Having played all of two preseason friendlies this offseason, the “undefeated” Red Bulls begin a four game, ten day stretch as part of this year’s Desert Diamond Cup in Arizona. During that time, they will be looking to continue to solidify an identity under their new boss and vet out players who will or won’t make the team for the coming season.
Headlining the invitees is Peguy Luyindula. The 33 year old former PSG striker has been a seldom used commodity at his former club since the Qatari Investment Authority’s takeover of club operations in 2011. Interestingly enough, as of this past December, he still ranked second amongst active goalscorers in Ligue 1 play.
Luyindula played alongside Juninho during Lyon’s dominating Championship dynasty early last decade. He is also a friend of Thierry Henry, giving the French striker a handful of influential backers in his latest endeavor.
Of course, his outlandish salary (last reported to be around the $3.69 million a year range) makes him a question mark for a Red Bulls team that have classified their salary cap as a “shambles.” Barring a sweetheart deal like the kind that landed Youri Djorkaeff some years ago, Luyindula’s services can come at a hefty price.
Using what resources they have freed up from their various offseason moves, including the trade of Kenny Cooper, the Red Bulls have already taken action in acquiring Eric Alexander from the Portland Timbers. That depth move will surely be followed by a few more signings this week as second round draft choice Ian Christianson and a host of other supplemental picks continue to try and earn their way towards a contract.
Rounding out the Red Bulls’ options are guest players Tyler Ruthven, Marius Obekop and last week’s game winning goal scorer Rafhael Domingues. Ruthven, 24, was a vital part of the Red Bulls’ franchise record tying five-game winning streak early last season during a time the team was beset by injuries. After being cut late last year, he continues to work towards regaining his spot. Obekop and Domingues have also made favorable impressions with the team in their limited time with the team, earning a call back for the Arizona series.
Midfielder Nicki Patterson and defender Toni Stahl did not receive that luxury. Neither player will feature in the final Arizona leg of preseason evaluations. Supplemental draft picks Ben Fisk, Marc Cintron and Stephane Diop have also not been called back to the team.
The Red Bulls are 2-0 in preseason thus far with victories over Malmo FF and the Columbus Crew. They take on Real Salt Lake Wednesday evening to kick off their involvement in the Desert Diamond Cup.