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Red Bulls Round-Up: October 19, 2020

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Gerhard Struber prepares for his big move, Cristian Cásseres earns rave reviews for Venezuela, and Josh Sims finds a new gig in this week’s links

SOCCER SPAIN WINTER CAMP ANDERLECHT VS LUGANO Photo by VIRGINIE LEFOUR/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to the Red Bulls Round-Up presented by Once a Metro.

Every pizza requires certain ingredients, or at least substitutions for these key parts. There’s a crust, sauce, cheese, seasonings, and maybe some toppings. This weekly news post has the same construction. The introduction is the foundational crust upon which the interesting part rests. The sauce is the direct news about the club. The delightful, stretchy cheese is the updates on past players in exotic locales. The seasoning is the… something. You finish it. I’ve never been good at tedious extended metaphors.

Here’s this week’s top story.

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The new boss speaks! While waiting to make the journey stateside, Gerhard Struber talked to Austria’s largest newspaper, Kronen Zeitung, discussing soccer and family. For those unwilling to read any further, rest assured that he’s excited for “the challenge of working with top talent and developing them.” Managing the Red Bulls is “an experience that will advance [him]” and that opportunity was “the decisive factor.”

The 43-year-old has already begun watching matches but notes they are on pretty late. His goals include “developing young players at high speed” and “delivering results with attractive football.” It will be comforting to fans that he’s in frequent contact with former Red Bulls majordomo Jesse Marsch. Perhaps they can discuss the eccentricities of MLS player acquisition rules or the proper way to motivate the American player raised on a constant dopamine drip of MTV and McDonald’s hamburgers.

The biggest reveal in the interview is that Struber’s family will be joining him in New York. His wife and two children did not follow him to the AC Wolfsberger job and declined to move to Barnsley. He revealed in a July interview that covid-19 restrictions limiting travel between England and Austria caused him to “hardly imagine continuing to work on the island.”

If one was looking for a sign of commitment to the new role, the entire family unit moving to New York at the end of the school year is a pretty strong indication. No longer will he be forced to fly home whenever he has two days off, as a time has been found where they could say, “Now let’s go together.” All that remains is acquiring a Lowe’s or Home Depot membership because when he’s not growing players, Struber’s favorite hobby is working in the garden.

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The brain trust is being built. The Red Bulls’ newest employee is an assistant coach and video analyst by the name of Bernd Eibler. The 26-year-old possesses a UEFA A License and recently worked at SV Mattersburg. He has a background in youth coaching and could be viewed as something of a rising star in the Austrian soccer scene.

After his hiring, Eibler talked to BVZ.at, providing some background and behind-the-scenes information for inquisitive fans. Like his new boss (affectionately referred to as “Strubsi”), he signed a three-year deal with the club and “didn’t have to think twice” to put pen to paper. The two stayed in contact after intersecting in the youth ranks, Eibler working as an assistant in the Admira Wacker academy and Struber coaching the Salzburg U-16s.

Since it has yet to be determined when the visa paperwork will be processed, Eibler plans on preparing “himself for the new task from home.” That also provides the assistant with the opportunity to spend some quality time with loved ones, including a significant other who can’t move to the United States due to her studies but supports the move. As he’s admitted in the past, it’s difficult to mix an ambitious climb up the career ladder with a stable personal life.

On a slightly interesting note for those constructing a timeline, Eibler reveals that discussions began “in the beginning of September.” The first rumor of the Red Bulls’ interest in Struber was reported on September 24th, well outside any reasonable person’s definition of a month’s beginning. So it appears the wheels on this coup had been in motion for quite a while, particularly if assistants were being contacted.

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It’s been a busy week in the world of Red Bulls podcasting. MSG commentator Shep Messing appeared on the Schwartz on Sports podcast to discuss the comings and goings in the world of soccer. The former New York Cosmos and New York Arrows goalkeeper gave his thoughts on topics such as Caden Clark and the Red Bulls’ outlook.

The newest American talent “really impressed,” but, more importantly, is “a real sign that [the team] is back” following a period where the club was in “a little bit of void” and had “gone downhill in developing players.” However, the Red Bulls are in decent shape in the near and distant future because high pressure pressing is a “style of play that works.” Players may come and go, but “as long as you stick to the system, you are going to get results.”

If you’re interested in more opinions and interviews featuring one of the most respected figures in New York and American soccer, check out Messing’s recently started Bleav in Soccer podcast. The show, co-starring his MSG partner Steve Cangialosi, is released several times per week. Recent episodes include an enlightening interview with Mandela Egbo who revealed his preferred carpool partner. Dru Yearwood shared that he “prefers defending to attacking.” Ryan Meara explained how the system requires a sweeper-keeper in the Manuel Neuer mold and broke down the team’s defensive corner kick setup.

The show is a must-listen for Red Bulls fans, especially in these more optimistic times. As Messing said in a recent episode, “This is the most excited I’ve been in 25 years because owner Dietrich Mateschitz went over there and got involved in paying the money [for Gerhard Struber].” The club is journeying into a brighter tomorrow; let Shep and Steve continue to be your guides, now in-between matches as well.

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The deposed king has emerged from exile. Former Red Bulls man-in-charge Chris Armas appeared on the weekly Café de la Tarde show hosted by Futbol Boricua Net, providing what are possibly his first media comments since leaving the club. The interview mainly centered on his time with the Puerto Rican national team and the process of switching to the United States. He also shared the story behind his heartbreaking injury right before the 2002 World Cup.

Unfortunately, when asked about his recent departure from the Red Bulls, the hosts ran out of time. A little over a month has elapsed since Armas was let go after two years in charge. It’s impossible to find a bad word said about the man, from coworkers to former players. Expect him to catch on somewhere, as word-of-mouth and personality can oftentimes be as important as tactical intelligence, which he possesses in good quantity.

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Here’s a story that was submitted to the Round-Up by Juan from Northern California.

Two former trialists are no longer at their original club. During the 2019 preseason, two players from Red Bull Brasil (the state club based in Campinas, not top division Red Bull Bragantino), Amarildo de Souza and Jonathan, had a tryout with Red Bulls II. The former stuck around, making seven appearances in USL, but his loan was neither made permanent nor extended.

The 21-year-olds’ careers have since moved forward, albeit along slightly different trajectories. Jonathan recently went on loan to Figueirense in Brazil’s Série B and made his debut in a 4-1 victory over Oeste FC. Following his time in USL, Amarildo left the Red Bull organization to join Maringá FC, which competes in the second division of the Campeonato Paranaense state league. Perhaps the next synergy offerings from Brazil will stick around longer.

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Sometimes it’s important to share ideas in order to gain a new perspective. New York Red Bulls client services representative Hanna Ryberg traveled to England to spend time at Burnley FC and discuss the Premier League club’s work in the community. She toured the Burnley Community Kitchen and the state of the art Leisure Box, which features a café, sports facilities, and a climbing area.

The Red Bulls do a lot of work in the local community, frequently performing acts of service. Recently, the club partnered with Covanta “to deliver small meal boxes for 100 families” at a local school. Hopefully this trip to England will provide inspiration for innovation as the organization attempts to become more aligned with the surrounding area and the people who inhabit it.

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It was Caden Clark week at the New York Post. Mark Cannizaro profiled the young player, sharing a somewhat horrifying yet unfortunately typical youth soccer story of another player’s father overstepping boundaries. As for the wonder goal against Toronto, all teammate Daniel Royer could think was, “What the hell is going on?” A lot of people are sharing that sentiment as they watch the young player’s ascent. Well, Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath isn’t; he feels his club offered Clark “a pretty good deal for somebody who never really played for us.”

However, all good things must come to an end. While Clark might be dominating MLS, writer Jake Nisse warns that fans should appreciate the limited time before the young talent moves to Europe. Those who follow the Red Bulls may be suffering from “exhaustion with repeatedly selling talented youngsters and maybe some are hesitant to truly buy into Clark with a move already looming.” It’s a slightly sobering opinion but one that is worth considering.

Clark has scored two fantastic goals to open his MLS career, a sterling start that has generated global headlines. Based on reports, there may be a clause in his contract that includes an eventual move to RB Leipzig. However long the attacking talent is here, fans should appreciate what he can contribute on the field and not worry too much about the future. At his level of talent and potential, it’s a minor miracle he’s playing for New York at all. The club is doing its job to bring in as many high-level players as possible, which in turn means that several will move on to greener pastures. Consider the pathway a good advertisement for future acquisitions.

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Barnsley continues the search for a direction following the departure of manager Gerhard Struber. There have been a few signings made. Callum Brittain was brought in from Milton Keynes, Herbie Kane made his way over from Liverpool, and Leicester sent veteran midfielder Matty James on loan. However, there’s still a gaping, unfilled spot in the technical area.

Despite reported links to Darren Moore and Markus Schopp, the club supposedly went for a slightly more under the radar candidate. According to TransferMarkt, Barnsley approached Hoffenheim U-19 coach Marcel Rapp but was turned down due to the role not being “the right step.” The hunt continues but hopefully not for too long. It might be bad karma for one club’s poaching to result in the relegation of another, and heaven forbid the Red Bulls experience bad luck.

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The conquest of Belgium continues. With dominance at the right back position, Amir Murillo is a star on the rise, possibly on the move to another club in the near future. Despite only joining Anderlecht last winter, the Panamanian is attracting interest from several parties from “major European competitions.” The next transfer will have to wait because he “feels good” at his current location and endeavors to play in the Champions League with the Purple & White. His current contract lasts through June of 2023, but it’s unlikely to be completed.

The challenges of a pandemic have prevented Murillo from returning to Panama. He’s been unable to visit his family or play for the national team since December of 2019, unable to spend time in the house that he built for his mother. However, there’s always the company of former Red Bull Kemar Lawrence, who is referred to as “a brother” that the 24-year-old was able to “support in the difficult times.”

To think, Murillo would have happily played for Salzburg, if only the Austrians had asked. At least the brothers Bradley and Shaun Wright-Phillips were able to facilitate his move to Anderlecht. It’s kind of poetic if you consi-

What did you say?

Oh, nothing, nothing. Forget I mentioned it.

***

It was a dismal start to World Cup qualifying for the Venezuela national team with two losses. However, one player has been earning plaudits for his performance on the field. Red Bulls midfielder Cristian Cásseres impressed in his senior national team debut, which consisted of a 12-minute substitute appearance against Colombia and a start against Paraguay.

The positive reviews for his play poured in. Meridiano claimed that Cásseres brought balance to the midfield and demonstrated “potential to explode.” Luis Vilchez of Balonazos was even more effusive with his praise, claiming the 20-year-old can thrive in both a conservative setup “as well in a more proactive plan where three points are sought.”

Venezuela’s next round of qualifying is against Brazil on November 12th and Chile on November 17th. Cásseres should be there, continuing to grow into one of the squad’s key players. Will this time away from the Red Bulls hinder his ability to adapt under a new coach or possibly lead to a move out of MLS? Stay tuned.

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Talented players don’t have to wait long to find a new club, those with high potential twice as quickly. Fresh off a stint in Moldova, Anatole Abang has landed in Portugal, the newest signing for Portimonense Sporting Clube. According to writer Hélio Nascimento, the Algarvian club beat out several suitors from around the world to secure his services. The 24-year-old striker has “signed for two years, with an option.” His new contract features a fancy €20 million termination clause, in case any teams are enticed by his upcoming sterling run of form.

Portimonense is located in the southern fishing and tourism city of Portimão. The club was set to be relegated last season after finishing 17th out of 18 teams, but was saved due to Vitória de Setúbal’s failure to produce valid licensing documentation and subsequent banishment to the third division. Portimonense has started this season with one point and one goal from three matches, but now there’s a new striker in town to turn around the fortunes. Anatole Abang has arrived in Portugal, ready to light up the Estádio Municipal.

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“Sin equipo,” no más. Former New York Red Bull Carlos Rivas has a new club to call home. The 26-year-old attacker is in Ecuador after signing with Club Deportivo Cuenca. The Morlacos, or Fighting Bulls, finished the first stage of the season at the bottom of the table with eight points from 15 matches. They’ll need to make up a six point difference in the second stanza, a campaign that would ideally be spearheaded by the newest signing.

Rivas played for the Red Bulls in 2018, scoring two goals in ten total appearances. After departing MLS in 2018, he joined Hapoel Ra’anana of the Israeli Premier League. The Colombian made a few appearances before suffering a knee injury, undergoing surgery, and eventually not having his contract renewed. Now he’s in Ecuador, healthy and ready to take on the world.

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In a week of several former Red Bulls finding new clubs, one more managed to cross the finish line. Josh Sims secured a loan to Doncaster Rovers, the 11th place team in EFL League One. He’ll be at the Keepmoat Stadium until January. The English winger found himself on the outside of the senior picture at Southampton, playing and dominating with the B Team in Premier League 2.

Sims originally joined the Red Bulls on loan in August of 2019. His stay was extended during the winter transfer window, but he left the club in July in light of “the global pandemic and all of the uncertainties that remain.” The former youth international has struggled to find consistent playing time, his most active season coming with Reading in the 2018-2019 Championship season. Doncaster is a steep drop down the pyramid, so it’s expected that Sims will put together some solid performances in advance of his contract expiring next summer.

Don’t expect him to see any more chances under the current leadership. Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl described the 23-year-old as possessing “a little bit of quality” but it was difficult to determine his “best position and biggest strengths.” Hardly a ringing endorsement, but “if you need [deep runs], [Sims] can be important for you.”

Here’s a joke that was submitted by Hazel of North Bergen.

Hopefully his stay with Doncaster is League One-and-done!

Thank you, Hazel. The intensity of your words has the energy of at least one 7,500 watt generator, which is enough to power most household equipment.

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