Backe bloodletting picks up speed with four cuts

Posted on 12 February 2010 by Nathaniel E. Baker

It took a little while but the New York Red Bulls new head coach has begun to flash the paring knife. Hans Backe took a major stride toward ridding himself from some of the baggage of the previous regime today, showing the door to four players, one of whom played a major role in the team’s surprising run to the MLS Cup final in 2008.
Red Bull New York announced it had waived goalkeeper Danny Cepero and defenders Carlos Johnson and Walter Garcia. The team also did not pick up midfielder Matthew Mbuta’s option.

Cepero will be missed by the team's fans ©Juila Harper/ASN

The biggest surprise is probably Cepero. The 24-year old was with the Red Bulls for three seasons after being drafted in the fourth round (46th overall) in the 2007 MLS Supplemental Draft by then head coach Bruce Arena. The University of Pennsylvania graduate is perhaps best known for becoming the first goalkeeper in MLS history to score from the field of play, in an October 2008 victory over the Columbus Crew. Cepero was stellar in the playoffs that year and was a major reason the Red Bulls made it to the final. Last year was a bit of a different story. He made 13 starts for New York in 2009, earning a 1.74 goals against average and a 2-8-3 record. But Cepero was still seen as a serviceable goalkeeper and was extremely popular with fans.

Johnson joined the Red Bulls from Norway’s Bryne FK before the start of the MLS season in March and appeared in 13 matches, tallying one assist. The Costa Rican was very much a Juan Carlos Osorio product: Latin, physical, defender but despite a horrendous start to his MLS career was not the biggest bust of the Osorio era (that honor probably goes to Juan Pietravallo). At the end of last season Johnson had begun to play much better and showed promise as a MLS pro.

Mbuta completed his first full season with New York after signing on Sept. 15, 2008. He was previously part of the Crystal Palace Baltimore side that upset the Red Bulls in the 2008 U.S. Open Cup. Mbuta scored twice in 12 appearances as a Red Bull. For whatever reason the Cameroonian winger never got much of a chance with the team, despite a few impressive performances, including a home loss to the Colorado Rapids where he earned strong praise from ASN’s pundit.

The departure of Garcia is a mere formality as the Argentine appeared in just one game for the Red Bulls after being signed from Quilmes Atletico Club last year and left as soon as the season was over. The 25-year old completed a loan spell at Leeds United after the end of the MLS regular season.

The cuts of course beg the question who the team will sign as replacements. Expect New York to sign goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who accompanied the team to its training camp in La Manga, Spain, to a more formal contract. Estonian midfielder Joel Lindpere is reportedly incoming but the departure of Johnson leaves a hole at right back. Or perhaps that’s where Roy Miller will play?

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