HARRISON, N.J. – A thought that some might brush aside as apologetic came into my head late Saturday night, after fan frustration toward New York Red Bulls second-year head coach Chris Armas boiled over with chants for his firing in a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena to the lowly Colorado Rapids. Was he set up to succeed?
Verdict of Armas aside, ask yourself how, in the 13 months that Armas has been New York’s manager, Red Bull Global showed any plan or significant support for the former assistant to Jesse Marsch.
Following the sale of a generational talent, this winter’s largely desolate transfer window was brushed aside as penny-pinching by an organization that had become increasingly frugal. But, no year-long stretch in even this new Moneyball era of Red Bulls soccer has been as quiet.
Mathias Jorgensen, Amro Tarek, Josh Sims. That’s the entire list of new additions (outside of Homegrowns, SuperDraft picks and Red Bulls II promotions) still on the first team roster after three transfer windows under the current head coach.
In a season that has revealed several areas of need, the solitary, short-term answer this summer of acquiring Sims on loan reveals an almost unmistakable lack of long-term faith in the man in charge.
At this point, the angered masses may be shouting, ‘Yes! They shouldn’t have faith,’ but, then, why hire Armas in the first place as interim manager last summer?
It was no secret that Jesse Marsch had his eyes on Europe ahead of the 2018 summer, and furthermore no surprise that Tyler Adams made his move abroad after the 2018 season. And yet, despite the foresight, when Marsch and Adams were plucked away from New York for RB Leipzig, the solution was to make do.
If Chris Armas and this 2019 team falls short, their failure should be the harshest indictment on ownership, who seemed to lack a well-thought-out succession plan for the very star player and coach they poached for Red Bull clubs in Europe.
Armas could not possibly have been ready to emulate a UEFA-caliber coach like Marsch, just like no tandem of Cristian Casseres, Sean Davis or Marc Rzatkowski could compensate for the loss of a Champions League-caliber midfielder in Adams.
Armas, like the trio in midfield, doesn’t deserve to be lambasted by the fan base for learning on the job and giving his all. Yes, he holds responsibility for certain decisions, and yes, there are fractures within a team that one year ago was the toast of the league. But the genesis of this season’s dysfunction is an ownership that treated New York like a minor league outfit and essentially threw away 2019.
Changes are seemingly coming with Ralf Rangnick, who was re-assigned in June from Leipzig Sporting Director to Head of Sport and Development for Red Bull clubs in New York and Brazil, but any major shake-up will come too late for this season.
Until then, Armas will weather blame at every false note, and some deservingly so. But, New York dropping from MLS’s best and a continental contender to a team muddling in MLS mediocrity is a result of mismanagement above Armas.