The newest member of the New York Red Bulls coaching staff has started his work with the team. Bradley Carnell was at RBNY training for its Thursday training session this week.
It stems from 2001 when Ralf Rangnick was my coach at Stuttgart, and I had one of my best playing stints under him. It was a good time for him as a coach and me as a player. We made it to the UEFA Cup and we maintained a link. In 2014 we reignited our relationship. We’ve been in constant exchanges since then, and now he’s part of the global brand with Red Bull. The Stuttgart imprint is quite big within the brand now.
The man often regarded as Rangnick's mentor, Helmut Gross, developed his ideas in part through work with VfB Stuttgart's youth teams, and it was at the club that Gross and Rangnick forged a professional relationship that is now more than 30 years old.
Ties to Stuttgart have persisted. In 2015, Red Bull appointed long-serving Stuttgart exec Jochen Schneider as the Global Soccer Coordinator of the RB system. Former Stuttgart assistant coach Alexander Zorniger was head coach of RB Leipzig from 2012 to 2015, before being appointed as Stuttgart head coach after being dismissed by Leipzig (and now he is at Brondby). And these are just a few examples of the continuing connection between Rangnick and his former club.
Carnell is now another such example.
Per Marsch, the decision to hire Carnell to RBNY's recently-vacated assistant coach position (Denis Hamlett was promoted to Sporting Director after Ali Curtis' seemingly abrupt departure from the role in the 2017 off-season) came down to the club's conclusion that it needed more help implementing its preferred tactical system (or RalfBall, as we like to call it at OaM) than it did with MLS-specific experience and advice:
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.
After RBNY training on Thursday, March 30, Marsch offered a few more words about what Carnell brings to the coaching staff. As reported by Kristian Dyer for Metro (no relation):
You can see that he adds a lot because already he’s familiar with playing our way. If you ever watched him play, he was a very aggressive left back who’d go after the game, loved to tackle and loved to run. So he fits – his personality and style of play fits; his coaching style fits with who we are.
Marsch has long maintained that the demands of RalfBall on full-backs is one of the more testing challenges he has as a coach. Off-season signing Michael Amir Murillo is one of the latest recruits to the position for RBNY, and Dyer's Metro piece is mostly Marsch describing his efforts to integrate the new player into a system that has specific and difficult requirements of its full-backs.
If Carnell can bolster that effort, his arrival is both timely and valuable to the club's future. Further, if he can help RBNY tap its pool of emerging players for full-back talent, then he really will prove a valuable appointment.
The Red Bull Academy has been something of a full-back factory recently, but some high-profile players emerging from the club's youth set-up in those positions (nominally - young players often don't progress to the pros in the role they played at youth level) have slipped away from RBNY.
Kyle Duncan and Matt Olosunde both attracted US youth national team interest during their Academy days. The former is now at Valenciennes and the latter is with Manchester United. Academy product and Trinidad and Tobago youth international (where he seems to be more highly regarded as a midfielder), Noah Powder, showed promise for NYRB II last season, but doesn't appear to have turned pro with the Red Bulls (yet - it is suggested he is considering options). Marcello Borges is part of the current USA U-20 set-up, and has been training with RBNY, perhaps as a prelude to a pro deal whenever he decides to call time on his college career at Michigan. Chris Gloster is a full-back prospect who is currently a regular for the USA U-17s. And the team also got a good showing out of less-heralded Academy player Kevin O'Toole in last year's USL campaign.
Further, draft pick Ethan Kutler has joined NYRB II and appears to have signed up for a season-long effort to convert him from a forward to right back. Academy grad David Najem is another II-teamer who has been given a lot of time to develop as a full back.
And in the first team, Murillo would seem primed to join the battle for the start at right back, currently contested by Sal Zizzo (formerly an attacking midfielder) and Connor Lade (almost incurably versatile, but apparently settling into a full-back role now). On the left flank, incumbent starter Kemar Lawrence is arguably one quality, injury-free season away from a big move to Europe; back-up Justin Bilyeu looks like he could still use a little help working out how best to function in the RBNY system.
The Red Bulls aren't short of full back talent - even their least-regarded, near-term Academy prospect (O'Toole) looks like he could be a solid pro and has already won a championship in USL. But though the factory keeps producing full backs, the conveyor belt isn't quite connecting to the first team. If Carnell's experience and ability lends itself specifically to grooming and developing full back talent, it's perhaps easy to understand why Marsch might have prioritized snapping up an old friend of Ralf Rangnick's on this occasion.