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Stick or Twist: Transfer decisions looming for New York Red Bulls

Ross Haley is back with some words on the transfer market pressure building in RBNY’s talent pipeline.

MLS: Eastern Conference Knockout Round-New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

In case you didn’t know, the Red Bulls have a few of what we in the transfer business refer to as “hot commodities.” These players are young, they’re talented, and they’re reportedly wanted by a bevy of clubs abroad.

As it stands, the club has three options with each player.

OPTION ONE: Re-sign the player.

It may not be easy and it may require some sort of Designated Player designation, Targeted/General/Special allocation money, or a Super-Special-Previously-Unknown-Before-Now-MLS-Contract, but the best way to keep a player around that you want is to pay him handsomely. Obviously, this might not be possible for the guys with a desire to seek their fortunes overseas, which leads to the other two options.

OPTION TWO: Sell the player during the summer or at any time before his contract runs out.

This involves introducing an element of chaos into the roster and hoping that potential incoming replacements or players currently on the roster can step up. While nobody wants to sell contributors before the season ends, this is the cross MLS teams must carry while playing on a Spring-to-Fall schedule. It’s not ideal, but it’s the fiscally smart choice as teams can get transfer fees and allocation money in exchange for their players.

OPTION THREE: Keep the player, go for the championship, and let his contract run out.

Is this “the year”? Are Jesse Marsch and Denis Hamlett willing to mortgage the future salary cap, push for MLS Cup, and pray that at least some of the desired talent is willing to re-sign?

I’m not one to speculate, but it’s fair to say that the New York Red Bulls will have to make some decisions this summer regarding Sean Davis, Michael Amir Murillo, Kemar Lawrence, and Tyler Adams.

Midfielder Sean Davis was has long been considered a player with the intelligence and leadership skills to be a future first-team captain. The Homegrown signing has finally earned a spot in the starting lineup after two-and-a-half years of roster congestion and an ongoing bizarre decision to play him out of position as a defensive midfielder. However, Sam Stejskal of MLSSoccer.com recently reported that the club is still negotiating with the 25-year old Davis, who has “drawn interest from several clubs in Germany’s 2. Bundesliga”. It may even be too late to transfer him, as he is “free beginning on July 1 to sign a pre-contract committing him to leave New York for a foreign club next winter”.

Kemar Lawrence has been a regular fixture of the rumor mill since he more or less shut down some guy named Lionel Messi at the 2015 Copa America. A transfer window doesn’t close without the 25-year old defender being linked to a variety of clubs across Europe. This past winter, clubs in France and Turkey were reportedly interested in securing his services. Lawrence informed The Jamaica Observer that he was open to leaving the Red Bulls, provided it was a move to a bigger league.

Michael Amir Murillo will have the biggest stage to attract suitors, as he’ll be with Panama at this summer’s World Cup. Despite only recently joining the Red Bulls following a loan, he’s already reportedly drawn the eye of Eredivisie club PSV Eindhoven. While the Red Bulls have no need to sell him immediately, the Dutch giant’s interest indicates that more pressure to part with the Panamanian may follow, especially if he has a good showing Russia.

Lastly, but certainly not leastly and most definitely beastly, is Tyler Adams. The 19-year old midfielder/fullback has been considered a prime target for a move to Europe, but so far his only reported (or rumored, depending on how you classify these things) is from Serie A club Roma. I can’t speak with any knowledge on the subject (or anything, really), but it’s safe to assume there is more interest out there for the Homegrown.

As always, the decision to keep or transfer players is a case-by-case formula combining value to the roster, potential value of the transfer, remaining time on the contract, and current roster composition. While some may view Kemar Lawrence as a generational (relative to MLS) fullback, the club may find that they already have a suitable replacement fullback on the roster (Kyle Duncan, perhaps?), in the reserves (Andrew Lombard, perhaps?), or rumored to be joining in the future (Matthew Olosunde, perhaps?).

It’s ultimately the club’s decision as to whether they’re going to sell when they can or let the contracts run down to free agency, but the tenets of RalfBall state you must buy low (and young) and sell high (and old-ish). To let a contract run out when there were offers on the table and replacements in the stable seems contrary to everything the club has been building toward since 2015.

As with anything involving the Red Bulls, it’s going to be incredibly quiet until it isn’t. The roster may be completely different next season; the question is will the club will have a war chest filled with transfer fees to complement it?