Midsummer is prime mating season for Europe's elder statesmen who are looking for one last ride and Major League Soccer clubs that want to boost their first choice lineup as well as their brand. MLS obviously isn't anywhere near profitable enough to be purchasing many, if any, players out of Europe, so the best way to extract a big name from overseas to America's top flight is to scoop them up on a free transfer.
The players that are targeted are, typically - though hopefully that's changing with the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Giovani Dos Santos buying one-way tickets to the USA - past-their-prime players whose name weighs more than their actual ability.
With the MLS taking the savvy business route of looking to tap the market for soccer fans by having a schedule that isn't aligned with Europe, this means that the end of their season is in the middle of the MLS campaign.
Every year there's a new crop of expiring contracts from the magical lands of the top division across Europe for MLS clubs to hope to entice to elongate their career stateside.
David Beckham and Thierry Henry are some of the bigger names and more successful examples of this strategy, but the New York Red Bulls have had their horror stories: Rafa Marquez, Tim Cahill and Frank Rost were each, to a greater or lesser degree, failing to meet expectations by the time they left the club. Yeesh, dark times.
The Red Bulls conceivably have the cap space to bring on board an above-average player seeking to leave an expiring contract behind in Europe. No one in the Zlatan Ibrahimovic stratosphere of wage expectations, but a welcomed boost to the team, if the suits who balance the checkbook can give the ol' thumbs up.
The following is pure speculation, filtered through my understanding of the roster and salary cap rules of MLS and my best guess as to what RBNY might be willing to pay and certain players might accept. The summer transfer window will be open before we know it, and the rumor mill has already tried to persuade us that Zlatan, John Terry, and Miroslav Klose might be jumping through it to land at Red Bull Arena. There will be plenty more big-name rumors before the summer signing season is over. But this an attempt to identify targets that aren't the shirt-selling, headline-grabbers of yore, but more modestly talented types that might feasibly do a job for RBNY, bringing experience and quality to positions of need in the current squad.
Central midfielders are largely overlooked because in Sacha Kljestan, Felipe and Dax McCarty, the Red Bulls need not find players in those areas. Strikers were generally dismissed as well, because Jesse Marsch is in a committed, exclusive relationship with the 4-2-3-1 formation.
That basically leaves defenders and wide players. Here are three guys who have not been linked with the Red Bulls in any way but would justify a high salary with RBNY based on what they could bring to the roster.
All contract expiry information comes courtesy of TransferMarkt.com.
It's no secret that the Red Bulls have a Matt Miazga sized chasm in the center of defense in 2016. The club has done well to bring Aurelien Collin aboard on a contract that Orlando City are contributing to the payment of, but a pairing of Daniel Agger and Gideon Baah appears, on paper, a beautiful fit.
Agger, surprisingly, is just 31 years old. He doesn't have the most blistering turn of pace, but neither does Collin. The more fleet footed Baah would provide terrific cover for Agger, who would in turn provide actual nuanced quality and experience alongside the Ghanaian.
On top of Agger's defending, he's gifted and comfortable bringing the ball out of defense. Miazga isn't as good as Agger on the ball anyway, but since the young American left, the Red Bulls haven't found a center back who is comfortable enough to transition the ball in a non-chaotic manner from the defensive third into the midfield.
It feels like Agger is older than he is, thanks to a puzzling decision to return to Denmark from Liverpool ahead of the 2014-15 season, before he turned 30. Note: Kolo Toure started a European cup final for Liverpool at 35 years old. But Agger left at 29?
Now the Dane's contract is up at Brondby. Though he's in his home country, it's worth punting a sales pitch in a bid to convince him to head stateside for a few years at the end of his career. Former teammates Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane are on the west coast so the east coast could use their very own past-his-prime ex-Liverpool player.
Is it fair to label him the Beta version of Sebastian Giovinco? No? What about the older, cheaper, discount store brand version of Giovinco? Reasonably fair? Cool.
For one, he'd be cheaper than Giovinco, so you get what you pay for. Sessegnon, like Agger, is 31 years old, though he turns 32 on the first of June. It gets dicey betting on a player who relies on speed as he climbs north of 30, but Sessegnon isn't far removed from being West Brom's then club record signing of roughly $7.5million.
Sessegnon would add a spark anywhere across the front part of the team. In the Premier League, he proved adept at occupying any position in the attacking midfield or as a second striker. He could use a revitalization in his career, and a move to another continent could do just that.
Since the Premier League season ended, West Brom confirmed that Sessegnon will not be offered a new contract, so there will be no bidding war from his incumbent team and after registering just 18 appearances in the league last season, there won't exactly be a line of suitors to beat out.
The Red Bulls could use a boost on the backline. The most glaring problem position has been in the center of defense, but they could also use a boost at fullback. Elmohamady was a wide midfielder before being morphed into a wing back role at Hull City, a position he filled diligently.
Elmohamady's contract is up once this campaign wraps up for Hull City. There'll still be interest from Hull, which would provide an arduous journey for the Red Bulls to signing him, but it's not one that'd be impossible. He could be offered similar wages, a new challenge and regular first team playing time.
As far as he'd fit into the team, predominantly at fullback but he has the elasticity to fill in further forward in the midfield if such a situation arose that he was required there. Elmohamady has a wealth of Premier League experience and is still only 28 years old, giving him a few more years in his physical prime. He'd quietly be a terrific signing to surround the central nucleus of McCarty, Felipe, Kljestan and Wright-Phillips going forward.
Wright-Phillips would benefit from his service when joining the attack, the midfielders would have another quality release of pressure and the defense would benefit from Elmohamady being an improvement in ability from anyone on the roster that'd fill the position.
If I had to bet, would the Red Bulls bring anyone in of note? No. But I'm going to dare to dream, dammit.