Two more trialists have appeared in training with the New York Red Bulls, as reported by BigAppleSoccer.com's Kristian Dyer back on November 24.
23-year-old Sebastien Ibeagha is a defender with a story that might be familiar to RBNY fans: highly-rated prospect as a teenager; encouraging spell at Duke; ducked the advances of MLS in favor of European club soccer; now on trial with RBNY. Is there room for another Mike Grella in the squad?
From Ali Curtis to Grella to Sean Davis, there are several Blue Devils among the Red Bulls, which perhaps lends credence to Jesse Marsch's claim that Ibeagha "just needed a place to train." Of course, as noted by EmpireOfSoccer.com's Dave Martinez, Marsch has relied on that line in the past - most notably in the case of Shaun Wright-Phillips, who (it turned out) just needed a place to train until he could finalize a contract with RBNY.
The Red Bulls have looked at a number of young defenders over the last few months - Hassan Ndam, Luke Woodland, and Sacir Hot spring most readily to mind. And if young defenders were on the shopping list before Damien Perrinelle went down injured, they are presumably - with Matt Miazga's future still not entirely clear - no less a priority now.
Ibeagha was once a highly-rated prospect: he was Houston Dynamo's Academy Player of the Year in 2009, USA youth international, and he reportedly turned down a significant offer from the Dynamo while part-way through his college career. He ultimately signed for Horsens in Denmark's second tier, getting regular starts in his first half-season with the club (he signed during the winter transfer window in January 2014). He was then loaned out to Fredericia - another Danish second division club - in August 2014. That loan ended in December of last year, and Ibeagha returned to Horsens. Unfortunately, he found himself surplus to requirements but with limited options: the Danish press reported Ibeagha had been told to find a new club in early 2015, but was not eligible for further loans within Denmark.
He landed at Fram Reykjavik this May, appearing in 19 of the club's 22 matches in Iceland's second division. The Icelandic league season ended in September. Perhaps Ibeagha will return to Europe, and is merely keeping fit with some fellow Duke alumni. But if he is looking for a team in MLS that isn't afraid to take a chance on players who haven't necessarily made the highest grades of European soccer, he's in the right place. And the Red Bulls could use defenders in 2016 at both the MLS and USL levels.
Also spotted in RBNY training this week: 17-year-old Mason Deeds, also a defender. He is an Academy prospect who has been on the Red Bulls' radar for some time: he made a couple of appearances for NYRB II this season, and spent part of the summer in Salzburg. It's not really fair to say Deeds is on trial at the moment: he has been on trial all year.
Deeds has committed to Georgetown, but Matt Miazga also had a college option before he decided to sign for RBNY. And, incidentally, Miazga also made a trip to visit the Red Bull family in Europe (to RB Leipzig rather than Salzburg) before he was persuaded to turn pro straight out of the Academy.
Whatever Deeds decides to do with his immediate future, it would appear RBNY - and RB in general - is working hard to stay in his thoughts.
It is unlikely we'll see new signings at RBNY until the current MLS campaign is over. The first team roster is already technically overstocked: Tyler Adams has been penciled in to the 28th spot on the roster, unless that place has been promised to Ryan Meara, who recently returned from his loan to NYCFC. All told, the Red Bulls currently have 29 players attached to the first team. MLS rules only allow for 28. A little off-season shuffling of the squad is inevitable. And perhaps a few of the current or past trialists spotted at the training ground this year will move into the roster spots vacated when the season ends and roster-building for 2016 begins.