Since his unveiling last August, both the Red Bulls and their fans have waited for Gonzalo Veron to break out and become a star contributor. Unfortunately, Veron’s year in an RBNY shirt has been marked by a difficulty in securing a constant role within the team due to inconsistent opportunity and injury. A place in the starting XI is usually assumed for a Designated Player, but the 26-year-old from Moreno, in Buenos Aires, Argentina has found it tough to even carve out a consistent substitutes role.
However, Veron’s fortunes seem to be trending upward as he’s made his greatest contributions and beginning to show the sign that made Ali Curtis spend a reported $2.2M to bring the former San Lorenzo man to RBNY last summer as a DP.
One of the biggest issues in Veron’s adjustment to the Red Bulls has been head coach Jesse Marsch’s inability to find the right spot for a striker in a team that boasts club all-time leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips.
After experimenting with playing Veron out on the wing in the 4-2-3-1, Marsch has seemingly given up on trying to shoehorn the Argentine into that spot, whether as a starter or sub. Lately, Marsch has deployed him as a roving striker by himself, a role that he seems far more comfortable with, or alongside Bradley Wright-Phillips in a 4-2-2-2 hybrid.
And thus far, the results has been encouraging.
Veron's strong August began on the third of the month in RBNY’s CONCACAF Champions League opener against Antigua GFC at Red Bull Arena. Vernon was exemplary in his 90 minutes; registering four shots (three on goal), assisting on Sacha Kljestan’s 79th minute goal and earning a spot on the CONCACAF Champions League Best XI for Week 1 of the group stage.
Three days later, Veron was forced into duty early in the second half at the LA Galaxy as Wright-Phillips went out with an injury. Seizing the opportunity, Veron had his most dangerous performance in an MLS game as he buzzed around the LA defense taking three shots, with two on target and a well-taken goal in the 68th minute, chipping goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
While merely making a mop-up duty appearance in New York’s 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact, Veron showed a spark, energy and directness that has rarely been seen in his time in New York. He seemed like a man who knew that he was going to get more opportunities, growing confident in his abilities; he provided a couple of dangerous individual runs with the ball and pieces of flair.
Veron didn’t have to wait long for his next start as it came on Tuesday night down in San Salvador, El Salvador against Alianza FC in New York’s second CCL Group F game. Unlike his outings against Antigua and LA, Veron spent the majority of his 90 minutes concentrated on the left side of the field as he started alongside Bradley Wright-Phillips in a 4-2-2-2 formation.
In the aforementioned previous two outings, where he operated as a lone striker, Veron was able to buzz around both sides of the attacking zone. This wasn’t the case in San Salvador as he and BWP couldn’t quite find a perfect chemistry. The forward pair found their opportunities limited, especially in the first half, as the Red Bulls’ midfield had difficulty finding it’s footing against the Alianza defense that was determined to sit back and flood the midfield. As a result, RBNY deployed many long balls in desperate attempts to the get the ball to their strikers.
Things changed in the second half following the insertion of Sacha Kljestan and RBNY was able to regain some flow in attack. As they gained control of the play, New York were able to do a much better job of getting the ball to Veron and Wright-Phillips in more advanced positions, registering 14 of their 16 total shots and ultimately got the equalizer through Omer Damari, another second half sub.
It feels like it’s taken forever, but the New York Red Bulls may finally be starting to see some decent returns from their investment in Gonzalo Veron.