“Josh Sims is the man!” Those were the uplifting words from Martin Tyler as the Saints winger barreled toward Everton’s 18-yard-box in a Nov. 2016 Premier League match, and they reflect the New York Red Bulls’ sentiment on this final night of the transfer window.
The Red Bulls have got that man, their one and only addition this summer, in the waning moments of the transfer window as head coach Chris Armas alluded to yesterday. Contrary to earlier reports, the loan will run until the end of the 2019 MLS season, and Sims will then return to Southampton this winter.
While the Red Bulls have thinner areas on their roster than wide midfield (outside back and defensive midfield) the right-wing position (without a healthy Florian Valot) has been the most insecure spot among the preferred starting 11, with Alex Muyl, Andreas Ivan, Derrick Etienne, Omir Fernandez, Marcus Epps, and even Marc Rzatkowski seeing time in the spot.
Sims should find a familiar club ethos at his loan club. He will make the transatlantic switch from the most academy-driven in England to the most academy-driven in the United States; from a Southampton side that developed Premier League standouts like Morgan Schneiderlin, Virgil van Dijk and James Ward-Prowse to a Red Bulls side that fostered American stars like Matt Miazga, Tyler Adams and Aaron Long.
If recent history is any indication, the glaring omission from Sims’ Premier League and Championship record – goals – should not necessarily be a harbinger for lack of offensive output in MLS.
Perhaps the most apt recent comparison, former Red Bulls winger Lloyd Sam, came over from England with six goals in seven seasons at Charlton and two in two years at Leeds. He proceeded to score 20 goals in four seasons with New York, including a 10-goal campaign in 2015.
Too far back? Look no further than the current Red Bulls. Winger Daniel Royer – whose highest goal scoring season in Europe came in 2013-14, when he had six for Austria Wien – is leading New York with eight goals, off the back of two straight double-digit goal campaigns.
Brian White, tied with Royer at eight goals, has nearly as many tallies this season with the first team as he did all of last year with Red Bulls II; a level of acclimation few, if any, envisioned.
Above all, there is Bradley Wright-Phillips, who never recorded more than eight goals in a Premier League or Championship season but proceeded to become the first player in MLS history with 15 or more goals in five consecutive seasons.
The real deciding factor to this addition is Sims’ game-changing ability, which based on – albeit, cursory – available footage, and backed up by his ability to earn minutes in the Premier League as a teenager, should be enough to move the needle in MLS.
There is, however, one important distinction between Sims and those other examples: time. The 22-year-old has less than half a season to contribute toward what the Red Bulls brought him in to do: compete for MLS Cup.
In the coming weeks and months, New York will try to navigate a minefield of acclimating Sims – who would have been kicking off his season in England this weekend – to the midseason state of MLS, all while teaching the club’s intense high press. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it’s because it could well be.
Patience, while limited, will be a virtue with this move. Chris Armas has, in the past, been slow and steady when re-introducing players from national team camp, injury or suspension. That poise will be needed with the biggest player acquisition of his managerial tenure, as the Red Bulls balance the impulse of unleashing their fleeting signing with the caution of preserving him for those all-important matches in the fall.