The newest arrival in the New York Red Bulls locker room is Norwegian Fredrik Gulbrandsen. The 24-year-old was signed by RB Salzburg last summer, but has found playing time hard to come by recently. His need for more regular minutes and RBNY's desire for greater attacking depth appear to have produced a happy coincidence for both player and club.
As head coach Jesse Marsch explained in his comments after the Red Bulls MLS home-opener against Colorado Rapids, Gulbrandsen is viewed as a starting-caliber attacking player, whether he's starting or not:
Listen, there's Gonzalo [Veron - currently injured] who has been here for a while and we think fits well into our system like this and he could partner with Brad [Wright-Phillips]. He could also play in the midfield spots, and part of the reason to bring in Fredrik Gulbrandsen in here is because we think he could be a really good partner for Brad. Sometimes we'll use Sacha up there, which we've done already. Sometimes we'll play with two, sometimes we'll play with three.
I'm really excited about all of our attacking options this year. I think it's exciting to know that each game you're going to have at least three guys on the bench that can give you major minutes and be very effective.
Gulbrandsen made his MLS debut against Colorado, subbing in to the game for the man who might eventually be regarded as his strike partner, Bradley Wright-Phillips, in the 88th minute. There wasn't much for Gulbrandsen to do beyond help his new team close out the 1-0 win it had been holding since the last minute of the first half. That was perhaps a blessing, since he had only recently arrived in America. He told reporters he'd not had much time to get acclimatized:
[I arrived] yesterday at 9 in the evening so I went straight to bed and then this morning I had the medical and everything and then to the stadium so it's been a little bit stressful, but it was good to get my debut.
But he also indicated he shares the club's apparent impression that he'll fit in quickly. Transferring from RB Salzburg means he is already aware of the Red Bulls' RalfBall style of play, for example:
It was not so new since I played for Red Bull Salzburg before, but it was good to come on to see the team and to see the guys playing - it was good.
And he is hoping his overall understanding of the requirements of the Red Bull Global Soccer tactical approach will lead him to the longer stints on the field his new coach would like to see him win:
I think we play very similar to the way Salzburg does so I think it will be easier for me to develop here and to get into the team so I'm looking forward to getting to know all the guys and the club and looking forward to playing more.
But he was careful to put RBNY's needs before his own: "I'm a team player and I want to help the team to win games, and that's what I want to do."
He also told reporters in the RBNY locker room that he'd been given favorable reports on the club (and the city) by former player Jan Gunnar Solli - and Solli has also given RBNY fans a favorable report on Gulbrandsen, via a recent interview with Kristian Dyer for Metro (no relation).
A pro player since he was 16, Gulbrandsen seemed relaxed and confident in front of his first RBNY media scrum, jet lag notwithstanding.
Perhaps the only particularly surprising revelation was his response to being asked to compare the atmosphere at the Red Bull Arenas of America and Austria:
The fans were amazing the whole game and I was really motivated when I saw them. It's a bit different from Austria. There's a lot more crowd here, so it was nice.
Gulbrandsen was watching a regular-season home opener, which would traditionally be one of the better-attended games of RBNY's year.
But it was savagely cold day and many fans stayed home. Even the announced attendance was a little low - 19.375 - for a game one might expect to attract more than 20,000. If Gulbrandsen enjoyed the atmosphere on a day that had fans Tweeting their efforts to stave off donating frostbitten extremities to the cause of following their team, then he'll really enjoy those games played in more accommodating weather.
#RBNY#cold day but worth it. pic.twitter.com/FVia0EZgn6— Torreiran (@TheTorreiran) March 12, 2017
Well, some fans, anyway.
Much to look forward to, it would seem, for RBNY, Gulbrandsen, and those who will be watching both this season.