New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch has opened up a little bit about the surprising appointment of Bradley Carnell to the club's vacant assistant coach position.
The decision to hand the job to Carnell is surprising in the sense that he doesn't come from the same pool that all the other key members of Marsch's current staff come from: the pool of people Marsch has worked or played with in the past. Marsch has a long professional relationship with Denis Hamlett, whose recent elevation to Sporting Director created the vacancy Carnell will fill. Assistant coach Chris Armas played with Marsch at Chicago Fire. Goalkeeping coach Preston Burpo was a teammate of Marsch's for a couple of seasons at Chivas USA.
Carnell has never played in MLS, let alone with Marsch, and spent most of his playing career in Germany. His coaching career appears to have been almost exclusively in his native South Africa. The only thing it would seem Carnell and Marsch have in common is Ralf Rangnick: Marsch works in a Red Bull Global Soccer system largely modeled on Rangnick's ideas, and Carnell played under Rangnick for a while at VfB Stuttgart.
Marsch confirmed the connection to reporters after RBNY's Tuesday (March 28) training session:
I met him through some of our friends in Germany. He played for Ralf Rangnick at Stuttgart and knows a little bit about how we do things here. So we had an initial discussion...a while back. And then we evaluated potential internal [candidates] in terms of the league versus someone like that - and we felt like we have a good grasp on a lot of things that go on in the league, and so integrating someone into the league that knows our style of play was kind of the direction we wanted to go. Bradley is a good guy, he's got big experiences and I think that he'll be able to add a lot to the staff.
A RalfBall appointment, in other words: Carnell has been selected more for his knowledge and understanding of Rangnick's methods and tactics than anything else.
Of course, Carnell played under Rangnick in Stuttgart more than 10 years ago. Ralf is still Ralf, but what he has been doing at RB Leipzig and in the RB Global Soccer system in general is surely a little different from he was doing in Stuttgart when he was in his first Bundesliga head coaching job (and was sacked before the end of his second full season).
Carnell retired as a player in 2011; he has accumulated coaching experience since, most recently as an assistant with Orlando Pirates in South Africa's top flight. And clearly has stayed in touch with his old friends and colleagues in Germany. He told South African outlet Eyewitness News the opportunity to move to RBNY came from the relationships he'd built during his playing career:
I have always nurtured a very close network base overseas so it's great progression for me and I am very excited.
A Soccer Laduma report suggests that Carnell and RBNY may have been circling each other for some time:
The 40-year-old stated last year that the Red Bull franchise had been in touch with him about possibly getting involved with them at some stage, and he has now taken them up on their offer.
As Jesse Marsch suggested when he told reporters he'd initially met Carnell "a while back", it would seem the notion of bringing him to RBNY has been around longer than there has been an obvious vacancy to be filled (though the Red Bulls could presumably have more than two first team assistant coaches if they wished).
But Carnell doesn't look like to be a RalfBall guru brought in to supplement the staff's knowledge of the RB Global Soccer system. He hasn't worked directly with Rangnick in any obvious capacity since 2001. Carnell would seem to owe his appointment to his past association with Ralf Rangnick, and he surely has valuable experience to share with the squad and broaden the horizons of the younger players. But it also looks like he is coming to RBNY as much to learn about the RB Global Soccer system as to school the squad in its principles.