The New York Red Bulls have been a little quiet of late - understandably, perhaps, since the last couple of weeks have largely been taken up with end-of-year holidays and even the staff of a Major League Soccer club need a vacation some time. Still, the new year has begun, the transfer window is open, and there is a team to build for 2019. RBNY looks maybe four of five players short of a full squad and the rumor mill is of the opinion that the roster may be reduced further in the near future, so no doubt that Sporting Director Denis Hamlett is quietly putting together the deals he needs to do to strengthen the team for the year ahead.
But part of the reason for RBNY’s relative silence in recent weeks is the simple fact that Hamlett did some of his off-season prep before the off-season began. As the team sought to remind its fans on January 1, one of its new signings for 2019 was wrapped up back in September: Jean-Christophe Koffi has been a Red-Bull-in-waiting for months, and his wait is over.
RBNY announced Koffi’s signing back in September - a deal that sent $75,000 in General Allocation Money to D.C. United in exchange for the right to sign the player to a Homegrown contract. So Koffi joins RBNY as a Homegrown player, despite emerging as a pro-caliber prospect in DCU’s academy.
The soon-to-be 21-year-old (his birthday is January 5) is currently regarded as a midfielder with an attacking mindset. He played college soccer for the University of Virginia, where he briefly counted Derrick Etienne among his teammates.
Exactly how he transitions to the professional game and the Red Bulls’ particular tactical plans should be revealed in the season ahead - perhaps sooner rather than later, since the first-choice players will hope to be busy with CONCACAF Champions League when MLS 2019 kicks off, making the opening league games of the new season an opportunity for reserves and back-ups to stake their claim to more first-team time as the year progresses.
For those seeking to get to know Koffi a little better, Club Eleven recently sat down with him to discuss his past, present, and future. The interview includes his decision to join RBNY (“The team where I wanted to go because they completely fit my style of play”), training with the Red Bulls (“It’s like 110 miles per hour every day”), and getting to play alongside RBNY training-ground stalwart Giuseppe Rossi (“He’s the best player I’ve ever seen in my life”).
In the interview, he also reveals why he didn’t make his pro debut last year, despite RBNY announcing he’d be joining the II team in USL for the tail-end of its 2018 campaign. Born in Cote d’Ivoire and the son of an Ivorian diplomat, it seems to have taken longer than expected for Koffi to get the necessary paperwork in place for formalize his status as a professional player in the US:
I wasn’t able to play before I got my visa and I just got my visa, so I just wanna play. That’s my goal for 2019.
Looking forward to seeing you play, Jean-Christophe.