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03-29-06, 03:50 PM
Haitian-American Josmer Altidore called in to play for New York Red Bulls Senior Squad
By Jonathan Nierman / MLSnet.com Staff

NEW YORK -- Edson Buddle isn't the only forward on his way to the New York Red Bulls. At the team's media day event on Tuesday in Times Square, the club also announced that Josmer Altidore will make the journey from his home at the U.S. U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla., up the East Coast to join the club for its first two games of the 2006 season.

Altidore was selected by the Red Bulls in the second round (17th overall) of the 2006 MLS SuperDraft. However, the 16-year-old has remained in Florida to finish his high school education and is expected to join the team on a full-time basis late this season.

The Red Bulls apparently didn't want to wait.

"Bringing Jozy Altidore up for the next two games I think is important," said Red Bulls head coach Mo Johnston. "He has to learn from the experienced players on our team -- your Tony Meolas, your Youri Djorkaeffs, your Amado Guevaras and obviously the rest of the squad this year."

"He's a young player that I think everybody recognizes could be a great player," added team president and general manager Alexi Lalas. "The fact is that I think he's a long way off, but he needs to start getting in the environment."

The environment that the accomplished youth international will experience promises to be an eye-opener, as he will be available for selection in the club's first-ever game under their new ownership and moniker -- on the road vs. D.C. United on Sunday (5 p.m. ET) -- and in their 2006 home opener at Giants Stadium on April 8, when they will play host to the New England Revolution at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Despite having seen action in the World Youth Championships in 2005, the two aforementioned contests will be Altidore's first as a professional.

"I can't think of two better games to have him in than our opener down in D.C. and then our home opener at Giants Stadium, because it provides an environment where he understands what he's getting involved with as a professional soccer player," said Lalas. "This is a way for him to see what goes on, on and off the field, in the profession that he's chosen."

The Red Bulls struggled mightily during preseason training to create offense. The team went scoreless in three games at the Carolina Challenge Cup, including a loss to the USL First Division's Charleston Battery, a second-tier team that had only been training for a few days before the tournament.

Johnston made no secret that he was in the market for a pure finisher, which he got in the form of Buddle in a trade with the Columbus Crew on Tuesday. However, both he and Johnston played down the idea that Altidore may have been called up due to a lack of options up front.

"If I had five strikers right now I'd still bring Jozy here because it's important that we get Jozy into our program as quickly as possible and learn from what we're trying to do and achieve," Johnston said. "He has a responsibility as a 16-year-old kid to come in here and prove his worth. If he's good enough, I will put him on the field."

Johnston said that decision will be made at game time.

"(Whether or not he plays) is up to Mo," Lalas said. "If he feels that it's appropriate at any point during the game to put Altidore in, that's a decision he makes."