It is now 14 months since the New York Red Bulls last had an Academy Director. Maybe.
On February 18th, 2016, the New York Red Bulls’ (now former) Sporting Director Ali Curtis announced a “restructuring of (the) youth development system”. It was a restructuring that most notably re-assigned long-time Academy Director Bob Montgomery to a new role: Director of Coaching Education and Youth Partnerships; a position the club described as a sort tactician-at-large, helping “to ensure that the club’s philosophy, style of play and core principles stay consistent between all three platforms”.
Per the press release, “the search for a new academy director will begin immediately.” That was 424 days ago. Since then, there has been no update from the team, nor has a new Academy Director been announced.
Perhaps there has been a restructuring since the restructuring. A couple of months after it was announced he was no longer RBNY Academy Director, Montgomery was described as “Director of Youth Programs” in an article published by mlssoccer.com. That is the same title used to introduce him in a 2014 piece on NJ.com - published more than a year before RBNY reported Montgomery was no longer Academy Director. And just last week, he was clearly the senior Academy man on the scene when the Red Bulls celebrated the opening of new training facilities for their youth teams. In the official video of the event, Montgomery is described as the club’s Director of Youth Programs.
Perhaps Montgomery still holds on to some of his old duties as Academy Director while the search continues for a full-time replacement. The Academy website still lists Mongomery as Academy Director, but it also doesn’t appear to have substantively updated its information about him since 2011.
If Montgomery is back in his old job, it raises the question of who - if anyone - is doing the new one that was created for him in 2016. And if he is doing two jobs, it seems a curious decision to burden the director of one of the more successful and admired academies in American soccer with greater responsibilities. Curious because the club’s recent enthusiasm for Homegrown talent means it has never before relied on its academy for first team success as much as it appear to now - and the job of identifying, recruiting and retaining academy players would seem to have got progressively harder in recent years.
The New York Red Bulls’ claim to have one of the premier academies in Major League Soccer is built on a number of factors, ranging from tournament successes, youth national team call-ups, and the sheer number of players advanced to successful careers in the college and the pro games. The current RBNY MLS roster boasts eight academy graduates; at the moment, there are former academy players at Manchester United, Chelsea, PSG, as well as others playing in Germany, Denmark, and Mexico.
There was a time when RBNY’s academy was something of an outlier in MLS. That time is passing quickly, if it hasn’t passed already. The league seems to be actively seeking to see all its teams commit to strong academy systems and professional reserve teams. Several clubs have caught up with RBNY, a few have arguably surpassed it on the your development front. And the continuing expansion of teams in MLS and pro teams in the US in general gently reduces the pool of talent available to the Red Bulls. This is good for the overall game in the USA, but for a club like RBNY - with NYCFC steadily ramping up its youth system and Philadelphia Union’s academy steadily attracting more attention and praise - it means it is necessary to work a little harder to keep standards high and to find and retain the talent that any academy is built on.
It made a lot of sense when Ali Curtis announced the creation of a role at RBNY dedicated to unifying the academy, USL, and MLS squads. It still makes sense for that role to exist. It also made sense for club to seek out a full-time academy director who wasn’t working a second job within the club. And that still makes sense 424 days after RBNY said it was going to make it happen.
Maybe the role is filled. Maybe the Red Bulls will let us know, 14 months after they suggested they would. Maybe.
Once a Metro will keep you advised of any updates or lack of updates, and the RBNY Academy will carry on regardless.