[MLS]One of two offseason acquisitions targeted by Red Bulls coach Hans Backe has cleared a major hurdle to signing an MLS contract. Forward Luke Rodgers, currently playing for Notts County in England’s League One (third division), has been approved for a work visa to play in MLS, which clears the league and the club to finalize a deal that will take effect during the domestic transfer window that opens in January.
Rodgers, 28, has played for Shrewsbury Town, Crewe Alexandra, Port Vale, Yeovil Town, and Notts County, where Backe was the manager before reportedly leaving over a dispute regarding wages shortly before accepting the Red Bulls’ job a year ago.
Backe and the Red Bulls tried to get Rodgers in April, but the U.S. Department of State blocked attempts to get him a work visa, citing his conviction for affray (fighting in a manner that disturbs the peace and threatens others) stemming from a nightclub brawl in October, 2009 and other incidents. He was arrested in 2002 for fighting with an opposing player in a parking lot and in 2003 was fined and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service for setting off a firework that accidently hit a 16-year-girl in the face.
He scored 13 goals in 41 matches for Notts County last season as it earned promotion to League One. He hasn’t scored in four league matches this season, which has become a lame-duck campaign with his pending move to MLS. Department of State officials attended meetings to resolve the work-visa issues and Red Bulls general manger Erik Soler told the New York Post last week that a behavioral clause has been written into Rodgers’ MLS contract.
Backe and Soler are also negotiating to bring Jan Gunnar Solli, a Norwegian midfielder whose contract with SK Brann expired in October, to MLS. Solli, 29, has played for Odd Grenland and Rosenborg and earned 40 caps for Norway’s national team.