The 23-man squads for Gold Cup 2015 dropped on June 23, and the news wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been for the New York Red Bulls. First, the team is only contributing three players to the competition: Kemar Lawrence, Roy Miller, and Karl Ouimette. It could have been four: Andrew Jean-Baptiste made a 26-man roster issued by Haiti a few hours before Les Grenadiers announced their 23.
As had been suggested by Costa Rica head coach Paulo Wanchope when he named his squad for friendly internationals earlier this month, Roy Miller made the Ticos' roster for the upcoming CONCACAF tournament. He will join his national teammates in preparation for their June 27 warm-up against Mexico in Orlando.
But the Red Bulls have done some negotiating behind the scenes, it would appear. It is tough for any club to lose three players at once, and tougher still when all three are defenders: Lawrence is the current first-choice left back; Miller is second-in-line on the left of defense and fifth-choice center back; Ouimette is fourth-choice at CB and has the ability to fill in at both full back positions (he's played either flank for Canada). That's a lot of depth to lose, especially when RBNY has already suffered injury and suspension to senior defenders Ronald Zubar and Damien Perrinelle this season. We know where these players are on the depth chart because we've seen how the team is selected when the squad gets thin.
Understandable why the Red Bulls might appeal for some compassion from national teams seeking their players, and fortunate that those national teams were persuaded to see things RBNY's way:
Smart work, RBNY. Miller was permitted to skip a Costa Rica friendly the last time this trio left the Red Bulls short-handed, so it would appear some foresight has been applied by the front office to the three most predictable senior international call-ups of their summer. Someone would seem to have negotiated to keep Miller a little longer, while Ouimette and Lawrence played World Cup Qualifiers and Copa America respectively; now Canada and Jamaica are allowing their guys to spell RBNY through a potentially vulnerable period and Costa Rica gets full use of their man.
This may not have been worked out entirely smoothly - Lawrence's absence leaves Jamaica absent an increasingly high-profile player for its first match of Gold Cup. Taxi didn't make the official Copa America "Team of the Group Stage", but he was on WhoScored.com's list, and that of seasoned CONMEBOL-watcher Tim Vickery.
But if there was a tug-of-war over players, both club and countries seem to have kept it under wraps. Credit to them all.
What do the call-ups signify for RBNY? As it happens, all three national teams featuring Red Bulls are in the same Gold Cup group. Two out of three third-placed teams will advance from the group stage to the knockout rounds of the tournament. It is possible all three Red Bulls will be absent until the quarterfinals are completed on July 19. Certainly, since two teams definitely get out of each group, there will be at least one RBNY player missing beyond the last game of Group B on July 14.
Miller will be gone for at least four club games: the trip to NYCFC on June 28; the USOC match against New York Cosmos on July 1; the July 4 game in Columbus; the July 11 visit from New England Revolution. Ouimette will miss only the Revs' match. And Lawrence will apparently leave Jamaica a man short "through July 11", which implies he'll be absent from two Gold group games and be available for all the matches that Ouimette and Miller must forsake for international duty.
Indeed, Lawrence might not miss any games for Gold Cup if Jamaica doesn't make it out of the group stage: RBNY's only scheduled competitive match during the knockout rounds of the tournament is against Orlando City on July 18. There might also be a USOC quarterfinal on July 21 or 22, but that will only be an issue for the Red Bulls if one of their players is on a team in the semifinals of Gold Cup. (A more pressing concern if RBNY beats the Cosmos is the fact the club has decided to play Chelsea in
an entirely meaningless friendly International Champions Cup on July 22.)
To recap: Miller is away from RBNY for four games, possibly five or six if Costa Rica gets as far as the semifinals and the Red Bulls have a bit of a run in USOC; Ouimette will miss a minimum of one (competitive) match and a maximum of three; Lawrence could miss none at all - he might only be unavailable if Jamaica makes the knockout rounds - and, at most, it looks like he's only potentially out for the Orlando game and the hypothetical USOC quarterfinal (if the Reggae Boyz make the Gold Cup final four).
That is not nearly as bad as it could have been. Someone in RBNY's front office has cost Jamaica the service of a very good player for a major tournament, but achieved the club's primary goal: preventing the first team from being decimated by call-ups during Gold Cup.