Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
Hardheaded. Stubborn. Headstrong. I could be talking about the Red Bulls or Eric Wynalda.
Quick, name me a prominent American soccer entity so hardheaded it eschews the well-worn path to do it their way, often to their own detriment?
I'll give equal credit to those of you who answered the New York Red Bulls and Eric Wynalda.
Sure, Wynalda might be out of the running and Gary McAllister continues to be the on-again, off-again favorite to fill the vacant head coaching position, as well as the subject of a battle-of-the-unnamed-sources, but in truth, Wynalda and the Red Bulls are a match made in heaven.
Wynalda treads the line somewhere between icon and iconoclast, unafraid to speak his mind, as any cursory reading of his Twitter account makes abundantly clear. If you like him, he's sort of American soccer's screaming conscience, spewing uneasy truths to whoever will listen, wholly unafraid to tell a room full of America's soccer caretakers exactly how he feels about what they're doing to the game. If you dislike him, he's a blowhard. Or a string of expletives. Regardless, it's hard to blame Wynalda's exile from the American soccer VIP section as anything else but a product of his outspokenness.
The Red Bulls are American soccer's combination bumbling idiot and perpetual juggernaut-in-training. There's no reason the Red Bulls shouldn't be the country's premier team. They play in a historical soccer hotbed adjacent to the country's most prominent city. They have massive financial backing. But something always goes wrong and when it does, it can almost always be traced back to the team's insistence they know better than the received MLS wisdom.
Wynalda remedies his exile status by putting together a squad of American soccer castoffs, seemingly just to spite the people who won't give him a shot, embarrassing the Portland Timbers -- who, funny enough, are oft hailed as the model for American soccer success -- in the process.
The Red Bulls spent three years footing the bill for a Norwegian general manager to bring in Scandinavian players to be coached by a Swedish manager while teams filled with Americans ran circles around them. When that didn't work, they brought in the big guns from Austria, appointed a French general manager and a Scottish sporting director. They made a bevy of cuts and began bringing in players with the help of Red Bull corporate's Global Director of Soccer, Gerard Houllier. The solution to European failures? More, different Europeans.
If (or when...please when) the Red Bulls win, they'll do it with mostly foreign talent and they'll do it with an Austria-approved head coach. If (or when) Wynalda gets a chance to run a team, he'll do so with complete control and while running his mouth on whatever subject strikes him at that moment. In classic form -- because you can't have two people that head strong in the same room together -- they just won't do so together, which is probably for the best. It just doesn't make the two any less perfect for each other.