Last week, Jesse Marsch promised the New York Red Bulls would have a few trialists in training. This week, the RBNY head coach revealed the identity of two of them.
Gege Soriola and Alexis Yves Meva are trialists at #RBNY training.— Eric Giacometti (@Eric_Giacometti) July 27, 2016
Per last week's statement, we had been told to expect "a Nigerian centerback". Empire of Soccer, Big Apple Soccer, and RBNY Comms man Eric Giacometti all dutifully report that centerback is Gege Soriola.
Who? Good question.
Soriola joined Montreal Impact in the summer of 2014, after a successful stint with top-flight South African club Free State Stars. It was in South Africa that the Nigerian enjoyed the high point of his career to date, winning a handful of caps for his national team while playing in Free State. By mid-2014, Soriola was shopping for a new club. He reportedly tried out with at least one other South African side - Santos FC - before landing in Montreal.
He did not have a great time with L'Impact, not once playing for the first team. He was released at the end of 2014 - lasting less than four months in MLS - as L'Impact sought to recover from a terrible season. RBNY scooped up Felipe Martins and, subsequently, Karl Ouimette from the wreckage of Montreal's 2014. Now it is having a look at Soriola.
Wikipedia appears to have stopped caring about the 27-year-old defender once he left Quebec. But reports out of Nigeria suggest he returned home after his misadventure in Montreal and has been playing for Nigerian top-flight side Shooting Stars.
Marsch told reporters to expect Soriola's trial to last about two weeks.
We were also told there would be "a Spanish midfielder" among the trialists. This might conceivably be Alexis Meva who is from Cameroon, but joined Barcelona's academy in 2008 (when he was 10). After nearly a decade in Spain, Meva got caught up in FIFA's transfer sanctions against Barcelona, briefly being prevented from playing for the only club to which he had ever been attached. Although he was eventually allowed to "rejoin" the club (he had been away on loan), it would appear the experience led him to look abroad - and Meva signed for Portland Timbers 2 in USL at the beginning of this year.
The Timbers don't seem to have had great interest in Meva: he has made three appearances for Portland's 2 team this season, logging a total of 29 minutes in USL; he hasn't played for the team since the end of May.
But Meva is one of the "sporting children" of Samuel Eto'o: a group of young Cameroonian players identified by the famed forward's foundation and drafted into the Barcelona academy. Wilfred Kaptoum seems to be the only one of the group still at Barcelona, but they are a talented bunch. Fabrice Ondoa could be the starting 'keeper for Cameroon for many years to come; Franck Bagnack has picked up a couple of national team caps; Andre Onana has moved over to Ajax; Jean Marie Dongou is at Real Zaragoza.
RBNY is already well stocked with young attacking talent in both the USL and MLS squads, but there is always next season to think about and Meva is young enough that a false start at Timbers 2 need not be held against him.
Neither of these trialists, however, look like the sort of help the Red Bulls have reportedly been seeking for at least a month. Meva looks like a II-team candidate; Soriola might be in line for another four-month stint as a reserve in MLS, with a shot at winning a contract for next year if things go his way. The sort of immediate attacking help it was implied the Red Bulls would be recruiting when Lloyd Sam was offloaded is yet to materialize.
A third trialist - perhaps the "Portuguese midfielder" mentioned by Marsch last week - may arrive shortly. On the evidence represented by Soriola and Meva, it might be best to keep expectations modest. The current batch of trialists look a lot like routine, forward-looking, roster-building ideas rather than "win now" moves aimed at pushing the team toward a trophy this season.