HARRISON, N.J. -- The New York Red Bulls have narrowed down their search for the club's third Designated Player to one, according to the team's general manager.
Erik Soler revealed that the Red Bulls are in active conversations with a player who could join the club during Major League Soccer's summer transfer window. Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez are currently the only DP's on New York's roster.
"We are working on someone specific, I can say that," Soler told Goal.com "[If it doesn't work out], we have a couple of other options. "
While Soler did not name the player, Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland could be on the team's radar. Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe has made no secret of his desire to add an advanced playmaker and he has worked with Ireland in the past at Manchester City.
Ireland's North American representative, Dejan Drobnjak of W3 Soccer Management, also confirmed to Goal.com earlier this month that he spoke with Soler about his client's status.
"Stephen has a respect for the level of competition in MLS, he respects the New York Red Bulls organization and would be interested in further discussing an opportunity with them," Drobnjak told Goal.com.
Drobnjak explained that both the Red Bulls and Aston Villa will continue talks throughout the next few weeks to finalize a deal. He mentioned that much of the hold up has been over the transfer fee of Ireland. Aston Villa wants $10 million for the retired Irish international, forcing the Red Bulls to consider a loan move for this season with a possible transfer clause attached based on Ireland's performances.
Former German international Michael Ballack was once believed to be New York's top target, but sources close to the player have told Goal.com that the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder has not been in contact with Soler and the Red Bulls. Ballack will be a free agent in mid-May.
Recent reports have suggested AC Milan's Alessandro Nesta could be a candidate, but Soler has stated in the past that he will not use the third DP spot on a defender.
Soler confirmed that Marquez will not be going anywhere. There was speculation that the Mexican international was on the transfer market after receiving another lengthy suspension earlier this month.
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Marquez's debut club Atlas has been rumored to renew its interest and Flamengo was interested in the DP as well. Soler says that he has been pleased by Marquez's production when he's played for the Red Bulls and fully expects him to have a big impact when he returns.
"We aren't thinking about that at all [selling Marquez]," Soler said. "When he comes back, I feel confident that he will be a great contributor. "
Soler also elaborated on the struggles of center back Markus Holgersson. The 27-year-old has been inconsistent at times since joining the Red Bulls from Helsingborg, but Soler still believes that he will become a top defender in MLS.
"We still firmly believe that he will grow into a good defender in the league," Soler said. "We will help him out and give him some more time to figure out how to play here. "
He added, "Generally, Scandinavian players do well in MLS. He's won titles in Sweden, he made an appearance with his national team before he came here. We've followed him for a long time, so we know he'll do well here. We need transition time but we are confident he will do well here. "