Of all the people who deserve to be ousted from the New York Red Bulls organization, Erik Soler was relatively low on the list. In fact, if I were to make a list of all the people who do their jobs, and do them well, in connection with the Red Bulls, it'd be Soler, the majority of the players and the two women who work at the Brooklyn beer stand in the concourse behind the South Ward. That's about it.
Soler will stick around as an "internal advisor," so he's not truly ousted, but on the surface his demotion comes with some head-scratching. Why would you fire the achitecht behind one of the best rosters in MLS history? Why would you get rid of a guy unafraid to make tough decisions? Or a guy who's always out, looking to bolster the roster? Why dump a guy whose put in the work to learn MLS?
In some ways, change was coming for the organization: They dumped Chris Heck earlier this year, after a year-long clinic in how not to run an MLS team, and declined to name a successor. Some felt the team was ready to head back to the drawing board when it comes to its business structure and this seems to be just that: Jerome de Bontin, Soler's replacement, has business experience and has some soccer on his resume.
The Frenchman sits on U.S. Soccer's Board of Trustees. He's the chairman of the Rush Soccer Organization. He briefly served as president of AS Monaco. Apparently, he's a U.S. Soccer-certified coach and official. He went to Amherst College and he's lived in the United States before.
On the business end of things, he's the director of Sustainability Investments LLC and Mekar Financial Services.
It's bandied about that Soler is the top guy in New York, Red Bull CEO and Absentee Owner Extraordinaire Dietrich Mateschitz's representative to the league. Replacing Soler with de Bontin means de Bontin, a guy with a more owner-y background, slots into that role. None of that is particularly controversial. In fact, in some ways, it makes sense.
The real concern here is what becomes of a team, sitting third in the league, that's arguably been hurt more by tinkering by its coach than on-field screw-ups. Because it's one thing to restructure, it's another thing to take the current guy, who's doing a fine job, and make him an "advisor," a role that smacks of illegitimacy.
It's one thing to find a new guy to send to owners meetings or to forge a new direction business-wise. It's another thing entirely to replace a guy who's built a good core of (likely) MLS-lifers (not that that's a bad thing) with Heath Pearce, Dax McCarty and Kenny Cooper, supplemented that core with good, foreign talent like Lloyd Sam, Joel Lindpere and Jan Gunnar Solli and added high-priced superstars like Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, all while making it work. None of which is an easy task.
Fear that a new face like de Bontin, even with experience stateside, could blow the whole thing up isn't far fetched. In fact, that'd be pretty damn Metro.