New York Red Bulls II had a week off from USL action after their 2-2 tie with Rochester Rhinos on April 22. The II team returns to action on May 6 with a home game against Harrisburg City Islanders. The Red Bulls' reserves are putting some effort into drawing a crowd to their new home, Montclair State University Soccer Park - offering deals to MSU students and staff...
...and to those who might be swayed by the promise of a pretty good deal on tickets and concessions.
But the game on May 6 ought perhaps to have the attention of local soccer fans for another reason: it looks likely to be the first and only opportunity to see Douglas Martinez up close until June.
Martinez is the Honduras U-20 Men's National Team attacker who was officially signed by NYRB II at the end of April. Processing his paperwork took too long for him to be included in any II-team games prior to May 6, though he had been with the squad for a couple of weeks prior to the official announcement of his addition to the Red Bulls' USL roster.
In a revealing interview with La Prensa's Eduardo Solano, the 19-year-old acknowledged that the lengthening delay between his arrival at the club and the official announcement of his signing had started to weigh on him:
This announcement made me feel very happy. I was expecting this news several days ago and I was feeling a little desperate, because the days went by and there was nothing official - now I can rest easy.
Not that he intends to relax. He is on a loan deal with an option to buy that it is up to the Red Bulls to decide upon whether to trigger. Martinez told La Prensa he was aware his performances on the field would determine his future, and he is committed to getting RBNY to exercise that buy option: "In my head, there is only the idea to succeed and to be part of this institution for a long time."
He also praised the club's professionalism, and expressed the hope that he might one day be regarded by Red Bulls fans in a similar light to RBNY's Honduran hero, Amado Guevara.
Before that, however, he is expected to join the Honduras U-20 team for the U-20 World Cup which kicks off on May 20. Martinez was an important player for the team in this year's CONCACAF U-20 Championship, in which Honduras made a surprise run to the final, ultimately losing out to the USA on penalties. It was thought he wouldn't join NYRB II until after the World Cup in Korea was concluded, but the Red Bulls brought him to America a little earlier than had been expected.
If the goal was to get him to play a few games for the II team before the World Cup, it would appear to have been complicated by the length of time it took to get the player officially registered. NYRB II's game against Harrisburg City Islanders on May 6 will be the only one for which he is available before he is expected to join his national team's training camp.
At least, that is what the Honduras U-20 national team coach Carlos Tabora would prefer, as Martinez told La Prensa:
I must join the group before May 10 - no later than May 9 - to join the group that traveled to Japan for a camp for a week, in which all the details will be defined of work that we will do in the World Cup.
All very sensible, but the Red Bulls aren't necessarily in complete agreement with coach Tabora's instructions, and the U-20 World Cup is not a tournament for which a club has to release a player under contract. Per Martinez, RBNY would like him to stick around until May 14, potentially making him available for two additional II team games (LA Galaxy II on the 14th, and Charlotte Independence on May 11).
Assuming Martinez was summoned to the II team at least in part to offset the injury problems affecting the USL squad, it certainly makes a lot of sense that the Red Bulls would want to get a little more out of the player than one game before he takes off for the World Cup. But it equally makes sense not to hold a young player back from giving his best to the highlight of his career to date.
Yes, RBNY's other prospective U-20 World Cup player, Tyler Adams, is apparently not leaving to join the USA squad until May 14 - but he is a first-teamer getting regular starting minutes. He might well be asked to stick around to play LA Galaxy in MLS. Martinez is potentially being asked to defy his national team head coach in the name of playing LA Galaxy II: it's not the same thing.
It's a tough spot for a 19-year-old to be in: he clearly wants to impress RBNY, win that permanent contract and have a successful World Cup with national U-20 team; he does not want to start off at a new club by potentially disappointing both RBNY and Honduras. But it's also out of his hands - the Red Bulls and the Honduras Federation will reach whatever agreement they reach. Martinez told La Prensa he simply hoped the matter would be resolved quickly, calmly and without lingering complications.
The latest suggestions out of Honduras are that Martinez will likely only play one game for NYRB II before joining the U-20 squad before May 10 as requested by the Honduran Federation. Regardless of how the situation is resolved, Martinez is expected to be part of the roster that represents Honduras in Korea.
For RBNY fans hoping to catch a first glimpse of the latest teenage prospect in the club's development pipeline: the II team's game against Harrisburg City Islanders on May 6 remains the safest bet. The club-vs-country tug-of-war over Martinez likely won't be definitively settled until he is officially on a plane on his way to join the Honduras squad. But one would hope NYRB II will accommodate the player's wish to comply with the training program of his national team. Martinez - and by extension, the Red Bulls - will benefit more from a successful World Cup than a successful game against LA Galaxy II.
Martinez should play for the II team on May 6. And then hopefully he will be allowed to join his national team squad, returning likely no earlier than the end of May. The II team will get by without him. Fans can get a look at the man Honduras and RBNY have been squabbling over at MSU Soccer Park on Saturday, May 6, when NYRB II plays HCI in USL. And then, for his sake, it is to be hoped he'll be gone for a while.