Ali Curtis is, as far as we know, still the Sporting Director of the New York Red Bulls. That is what the official website of RBNY says as of February 2, 2017. It is also what the club has been telling anyone who cares to ask. Repeatedly. Since January 12.
Lalas just said on his periscope that he's asking #RBNY every day if Ali Curtis is still employed and the answer is always yes— Isaac (@isaacccccccccc) January 23, 2017
RBNY reply today, fwiw, when I asked about Ali Curtis silence: 'He is still our sporting director. There has been no change.'— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) January 24, 2017
It’s weird when people keep asking if someone the club has never said it had fired is still employed. It’s especially weird when the someone in question is the man credited with the Red Bulls’ sudden identity shift in 2015.
Ali Curtis was the man with the 300-page plan. And though he was teased for that and raged against for the slashing and burning he wreaked on the club’s roster and technical staff when he arrived - well, credit where it’s due: the team won its second-ever trophy on Ali’s watch, and he has wheeled and dealed RBNY out of some tight spots (grabbing Aurelien Collin to stabilize the team’s shaky 2016 defense being perhaps his best move, but not his only one).
But now he has disappeared.
Sporting Director Ali Curtis has been missing from the SuperDraft, team reports, signing announcements, the discussion of the Dax McCarty trade - anything RBNY has done, really - since he abruptly left the NSCAA convention on January 12.
Kristian Dyer of Metro NY was informed by a club general manager within the league that Denis Hamlett is the man to talk to about trades or transfers or other business traditionally handled by the sporting director of the New York Red Bulls. Impossible to say how much Hamlett has done in that regard, since it isn’t a role he’s officially filling just yet, but the club does not appear to have lost its vision or identity. Players have been signed, preseason is underway: if Hamlett is steadying the ship, he’s doing a good job - not least because we haven’t actually noticed him doing it yet.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the man officially carrying the title of Sporting Director of the New York Red Bulls is MIA.
On January 12, we heard “unforeseeable circumstances” had called him back home from the MLS Combine, SuperDraft, and NSCAA Convention in Los Angeles.
Those unforeseeable circumstances occurred just as the rumor that Jesse Marsch had been poached by Red Bull Salzburg subsided. Marsch showed up late to the Combine in LA; Curtis left early.
It’s February now. It’s way past weird. We had some fun with his absence for a while:
But it’s not funny anymore.
There is the possibility there is a personal crisis that has required Ali’s complete attention since January 12. But if that is the case, perhaps a brief statement to the effect that he has serious, private matter to attend to and the club is supporting him during this difficult time would be appropriate.
But there have been many inquiries about Curtis since he quit the scene in LA, and they have all been politely returned to their senders by RBNY without any comment beyond “He’s still here”. The latest example: Jesse Marsch gave FourFourTwo’s PauL Tenorio a response to the now-familiar Curtis question that seemed almost like the RBNY head coach was himself getting a little weary of handing out an obviously inadequate answer:
When asked if the front office structure remains the same today as it was last season, Marsch hedged. “For right now, yes,” he said. “There’s been a statement about Ali already and I’ll stick to that.”
Just tell us what’s up, RBNY. Whatever has happened, we can take it. Ali Curtis made on of the least-applauded entrances to this club since...well, since the Red Bull takeover, maybe. But if he’s gone, he’s gone with his head held high because most of what he did for the team worked out: we have seen two winning seasons in MLS, a Supporters’ Shield, all the trophies USL has to give for NYRB II - Ali Curtis has done extremely well by any reasonable measure.
If his days at RBNY are over: let’s not wait until the season starts to say goodbye. If something terrible, personal, and private is happening - tell us to back off and we’ll understand that too. But tell us something. Because the notion that all is well with the New York Red Bulls is getting harder to sustain with every day that passes without sight or sound of Ali Curtis.