In the midst of the usual mid-week, post-training chat about the first team's next opponent (Columbus Crew) and updates on injured players in the squad, New York Red Bulls head coach took a moment to sing the praises of two players not really expected to feature for RBNY in MLS this season: Vincent Bezecourt and Florian Valot.
They're both very good. They've done very well in the USL. We think they fit in really well with our team right now.
Bezecourt is currently one of the hottest players in USL: he has scored four goals and provided two assists in five games for NYRB II so far this season. Valot has had an injury that has restricted him to just three appearances for the II team to date, but he has chipped in one goal and an assist in those games.
Both players impressed with NYRB II last season. Injury kept Bezecourt off the field for several months, but he returned to the team in the summer and finished the year with eight goals and six assists in all competitions (which is to say, the USL regular season and post-season). Valot didn't join the team until June, but finished the year as NYRB II's leading assist-man, with eight in all competitions.
They both happen to be French and to play attacking roles in the team, which has led them to be dubbed the II team's "French Connection", and causes them to often be treated as a sort of single entity on the roster - even Marsch admits he has fallen into the habit.
But they are different players, with different skill-sets. Skill-sets that happen to combine well with each other and the Red Bulls' RalfBall style of play. They are also both going to turn 25 next year (Valot is the older of the two - he turned 24 in February; Bezecourt will be 24 in June). They are contracted to NYRB II for this season, making it not impossible but a little more challenging for them to get first-team minutes in 2017. They might be given opportunities in US Open Cup, and players have been loaned up to MLS from USL teams in the past, but it remains a relatively rare occurrence. Also, the MLS roster is stacked at the positions Valot and Bezecourt might fill, so it would seem necessary for a player or to leave before they can really be accommodated into the first team.
But Marsch made clear that RBNY has eyes on both Bezecourt and Valot, and he has encouraged both players to be patient with the team, focus on their game, and be confident there will be first-team minutes for them with the Red Bulls in the future:
I've spoken with them and said just from a roster perspective, a foreigner perspective, international slots and everything else - it's not the easiest thing to slot them into the MLS roster right now. But they're part of our future. And they might need to suffer financially a little bit in USL right now, but that...to keep their focus on developing every day on getting better and their eventually going to get their opportunity with the MLS team.
It's not a proposition that can be sustained indefinitely: "give us some of your best work for less money than you might earn in MLS while we figure out when and how the first-team roster can accommodate you". But clearly it's one the players have agreed to - and their early-season form suggests they are well-motivated to keep performing at the level that has caught Marsch's attention.
The RBNY head coach seems to be a fan of both Bezecourt and Valot, and it would appear they are being actively groomed for first-team roster spots, albeit spots that might not open up for them until 2018.
They've both done really well. Vincent has scored some goals, set up goals. they fit the mentality of the way we play, their mentalities are both great And the most important probably is they have the respect of the first team guys - and that says as much as anything.
Until they do crack the MLS squad, the place to see Bezecourt and Valot is in USL with NYRB II. The team's next game is against Rochester Rhinos on April 22.