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Report: Former Birmingham City defender Will Packwood auditioning to be New York Red Bulls' sixth center back

He's a promising player, but the squad is already crammed with CBs. For now.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images


Big Apple Soccer's Kristian Dyer has reported Will Packwood is training with the New York Red Bulls. He is described in the report as a trialist.

There is reason to be excited about the thought of Packwood joining RBNY: he is a US youth-team regular who is in the current U-23 player pool and therefore a possible contributor to his national team's effort to qualify for the next Olympic tournament. Indeed, Packwood has been called up to the senior national team by Jurgen Klinsmann, though he does not (yet) have USMNT caps.

He is traditionally regarded as a center back, though has a skill set that lends itself to playing as a defensive midfielder also. And the young American clearly has an interest in playing in MLS: he was released from his contract by Birmingham City - the club he'd been attached to since the age of 14 - in May: a few weeks early so that he could try his luck at getting into New England Revolution's squad before the MLS primary transfer window closed.

That didn't work out. But Packwood's trial with RBNY would imply the 22-year-old has not given up on landing a deal within MLS. And a well-regarded American prospect should be attractive to several teams in this league. He got reasonably close to breaking into Birmingham's first team with a regular run of games in the second half of the club's 2013-14 season. He was the Football League's Young Player of the Month for February 2014.

So he can play, when he's not injured - which has been the biggest obstacle to building his career to date.

Easy to see why MLS teams would want a look at a young, potentially international-class center back who might just need some stability (when he wasn't injured at Birmingham he was also loaned around quite a lot) to fulfill his potential.

Not quite so easy to understand why this MLS team - RBNY - might be interested. The Red Bulls have five specialist center backs under contract: Ronald Zubar, Damien Perrinelle, Matt Miazga, Karl Ouimette, and Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Of those five, AJB has fallen behind Roy Miller - the senior left back in the squad - on the CB depth chart. So one might argue the team actually has SIX center backs on the roster. Why would it possibly need another one?

Maybe it doesn't. Perhaps RBNY is looking at Packwood for a contract with the reserve team, NYRB II - where he would join another US U-23 hopeful, Dan Metzger. Or it could just be a case of allowing a player to get fit, as it is reported is the reason for Shaun Wright-Phillips' continued presence in training with the Red Bulls.

Or...RBNY is contemplating making a move. There is only one open MLS roster spot right now. It would be very peculiar indeed to spend that limited squad space on a man whose best position is already contested by up to six players. But the club might still have the option (the way USL and MLS manages the movement of players between the two leagues isn't entirely transparent) of sending a player to NYRB II on "season-long loan". That would effectively clear a space in the squad. If AJB is the fifth-choice CB right now, maybe it's best to let him be all he can be in USL and find someone who is perhaps more MLS-ready at the present moment.

Except, the team would still have four specialist center backs and Roy Miller available. Is Packwood going to be leapfrogged over Zubar, Perrinelle, or Miazga for playing time? Is the back line that bad? Perhaps it is and RBNY is ready to cut a player or two and start building a new-look defense - 14 games into a 34-game season.

Anything is possible, and it's only a trial. Unsigned players drift in and out of training fairly regularly. But the presence of a center back prospect who should be a candidate to start (at least based on his past experience and current reputation) in RBNY's camp does make one wonder whether the team is thinking it might lose a center back before the season is up.

And would be derelict not to point out that the Red Bulls' hottest young asset prospect at the moment is - much like Packwood - a 6' 3" center back with US youth national team pedigree. There are no rumors suggesting Matt Miazga is going anywhere other than to RBNY's next match. But that might change if word gets out that the team is seriously shopping for another CB.