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February 17, 2012
Source: Young Red Bulls players 'basically used as traffic cones in practice'

Hans Backe has been accused of neglecting young American players.
Hans Backe has been accused of neglecting young American players.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Kristian Dyer Writer

The release of Sacir Hot and Matt Kassel, who signed with the Red Bulls last season, is just the latest head scratching move from the Major League Soccer team.

Both players were signed out of the club’s academy, meaning that they did not count against the salary cap and both were released without being given much of a chance at first team minutes.

Calling it a “difficult move,” Red Bulls sporting director Erik Soler played the humanitarian angle in a statement released by the club on Friday afternoon.

“We want to wish Sacir and Matt the best of luck and hope to see them back at the club in the future. Unfortunately, with the talent on our squad, we cannot guarantee that Sacir and Matt will play in first team matches. They are both young players who need more games and we will help them find positive situations where they can succeed and develop,” Soler said in the statement.

But as of now, the Red Bulls haven’t done anything to help the two young players. A team source, speaking on the condition of anonymity to Big because he is not allowed to comment on such matters, said that club management did not attempt to provide loan deals for either players to get what Soler called “more games” either last year or this season.

Kassel played twice for the team in league action last year and Hot never made a MLS start for coach Hans Backe.

The two players were never given a chance from the beginning; in fact none of the young players are given much of a chance on this team,” the source told “Hans knows his players and the young guys are never given a chance at even the bench. They’re basically used as traffic cones in practice.”

It got so bad that last year Backe utilized a short bench on multiple occasions, excluding players like Hot and Kassel along with several other younger players on the team. There was always a clear cut Starting XI from Backe as opposed to 2010 when players such as Danleigh Borman, Carl Robinson and Tony Tchani consistently worked themselves into starting positions based on their performance in practice. This kept the regulars sharp in training as they were fearful of losing their grip on a starting role.

“There’s a sense that the older players have gotten complacent," the source said. "They know they’re going to be played no matter what since the younger players aren’t even making the bench. No one is pushing them."

After a productive start to last season, even prospect Juan Agudelo saw his minutes diminish. There was talk that club management wanted to keep the pressure off the teenager, who was called up to the CONCACAF Gold Cup last year and he was beginning to get European interest as he gained in confidence.

Now, Agudelo is likely the fourth option on the team once he returns from an ankle injury and duties with the U-23 national team. Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers and Kenny Cooper are all ahead of the former Academy product.

The source said that frustration is settling in for Agudelo and all the young players on the team.

"It is rough for the younger players, all of whom never get rewarded or even given the chance in practice since all they're used for is a 'scout team' for the starters,” the source said. “They can't develop that way. It isn’t a happy place at all and tough on the younger guys, all of them.”

The Red Bulls were unavailable for comment on Friday.

The MLS team had no comment on Saturday.

Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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