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Red Bulls Round-Up: October 26, 2020

Struber and Eibler in a samba state of mind, Robinson and Simão boogie into new jobs, and Josh Sims gets back into the groove in this week’s links

MLS: U.S. Open Cup Final-New York Red Bulls at Sporting KC
Former New York defender Fidel Escobar remains inactive with his new club in Spain
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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

Halloween is here, folks! Let’s celebrate by satisfying our craving like we indulge in so many delicious candies and sweets. This post contains plenty of treats for eager readers, those fans seeking to slake their hunger for Red Bulls stories and updates on former players and coaches. Does it contain any seasonal tricks, cruel pranks, or cockamamie ruses? It might, so please continue reading at your own risk and beware of clicking on a spooky link. I’m just kidding. That was the trick.

Here’s this week’s top story.


What’s the first thing one does after getting hired? If you’re new Red Bulls manager Gerhard Struber and his assistant Bernd Eibler, you head to Brazil. According to an Instagram post by the latter, the pair have been at Red Bull Bragantino, observing training. The sister club was added to the Austrian company’s football profile in 2019 and secured promotion to the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A soon after.

While some may question why the new coaches are able to head to South America but not the United States, immigration and work permits will always be the answer. As stated in the initial press release, Struber will “assume duties pending receipt of his U.S. work visa.” In a recent interview, Eibler echoed that his first day at the club “depends on when [he] gets a visa.”

Observing the training of a sister club inspires thoughts of loans and transfers involving fancy young talent, particularly those highly sought after Brazilian prospects. The Red Bulls have an interesting history with signings from Salzburg, Leipzig, and RB Brasil (which is a separate entity from Bragantino), but new management could lead to a different reality of friendlier and advantageous movement. On the other hand, maybe Struber and Eibler are merely there to observe the club and kill some time before being allowed to move to the United States. For now, I grant you permission to let your imagination run wild as you scan Bragantino’s roster.


Regardless if the venture is sport, art, or something in between, Red Bull is all about innovation. While some organizations merely enter into the world of eSports with one player, New York has two. Mike LaBelle serves as a general media personality, and George Adamou “is focused on his professional play in tournaments.”

The investment by a sports team in a wholly different vertical, likely a source of confusion to some, has yielded positive gains. According to senior director of content and communications Jayne Bussman-Wise, the club’s ownership “provided a multitude of resources” to pursue this new and expanding field. The professional gamers’ work and an appearance by superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins has been linked to a growth in merchandise sales.

It’s been said that the FIFA video game series is the gateway to the sport for many young Americans. The Red Bulls smartly entered this explosive growth industry, not by dipping a toe into the water and waiting for signs of guaranteed success, but with full intent. Some are surely wondering whether this will lead to any direct benefit on the field. That’s a question with a complicated answer that you’ll have to figure out for yourself.


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

Former New York Red Bulls Head of International Relations and Scouting Ralf Rangnick sat down for an interview with Spanish newspaper El País. He discussed his philosophy on tactics, scouting tendencies, and current employment outlook. Major League Soccer and his brief spell of direct involvement overseeing the club were not mentioned, but his influence over the past six years is emanating off the page. It’s a must-read for Red Bulls fans, particularly with Gerhard Struber, a disciple and favored son, now in charge and ready to double down on the vaunted system.

The 62-year-old former Leipzig and Hoffenheim architect broke down his project into easy steps: define a clear style of play, sign young players, and hire the best people. Rangnick notes that sometimes avoiding the wrong talent is more important than acquiring the right personnel. Every club strives to achieve this, but Red Bull has streamlined the process, perhaps due to an intense focus on scouting and youth development.

Despite previous reports, Rangnick insists that he is “not negotiating with Roma” and “can’t imagine going there right now.” He desires to work at a “traditional club” in Germany or England. It’s been over a year since leaving the manager and sporting director roles at RB Leipzig, which is a normal layoff in the soccer world. Maybe the right job won’t come along, but it would be a shame for such an influential figure to not transform another club.


A former Red Bulls Academy and New York Red Bulls II player is beginning his professional career in Italy. Salvatore Esposito signed with U.S. Fiorenzuola 1922 of the Italian Serie D. The 19-year-old midfielder made his debut in a scoreless draw against Marignanese, playing 30 minutes as a substitute.

Esposito joined the Red Bulls Academy in 2018 after spending time in the youth ranks at Manhattan Kickers, Genoa, and Napoli. In 2019, he made four appearances for Red Bulls II in the USL. Now he’s back in Italy, attempting to work his way up the professional ladder.

I wish you the best of luck, Sal. We will watch your career with great interest.


In September, Sports Business Journal named Red Bulls general counsel Kari Cohen to its annual list of “Game Changers” recognizing “the top women in the sports business.” The publication asked the nominees to reveal the inspiration for their leadership styles. Cohen shared that her role model is none other than general manager Marc de Grandpre.

“Marc has the most commendable quality of treating everyone with utmost respect,” she told SBJ. “When he’s speaking with you… you have his undivided attention. He also has an incredible tendency for not just saying, but actually showing how deeply he believes in each of his employees and providing them with the tools necessary to set them up for success.”

Formerly the Red Bulls’ managing director from 2006 through 2008, de Grandpre returned to the club in 2014, replacing Jérôme de Bontin. In 2016, he was named Doug Hamilton Executive of the Year. It appears his leadership style inspires quite the level of loyalty among employees, perhaps built over staff lunches at Tops Diner.


It didn’t take long for Doncaster Rovers loanee Josh Sims to make an impact. In his first match at the club, the 23-year-old winger assisted on the match’s only goal in the 79th minute. He received the ball in acres of free space, charged into the box unimpeded, and hit a centering pass to Reece James, who converted with quite the flourishing finish.

The former Red Bull found the experience “enjoyable” and “hopes to build on” the assist. “I’ve grown up being a winger and enjoy what the position brings,” he told Doncaster’s official website. “It’s a good group of boys and competition is strong, that’s a good thing because it keeps you hungry to keep performing.”


Send out the appropriate color of smoke, a new manager has been hired. Barnsley FC have appointed Valérien Ismaël to lead the club. The 45-year-old Frenchman had a long playing career including stops at Strasbourg, Lens, Werder Bremen, and Bayern Munich. He was recently in charge of LASK, the second consecutive manager to move from Austria to Oakwell Stadium.

Ismaël replaces Gerhard Struber who is, of course, the current head coach at New York Red Bulls. Barnsley is mired in yet another relegation fight, with escape looking less likely this season. It’s a difficult state for any club, but sometimes the drop to a lower league can lead to an even stronger return. Soccer, like life, is a constant series of peaks and valleys.


The odyssey of one Ismar Tandir continues. The former Red Bulls academy standout joined MFK Zemplín Michalovce of the Slovak Super Liga. He was previously with Sigma Olomouc, a situation that ended under slightly negative circumstances, with his departure described as “liberation for both” player and club.

“The transfer was not easy at all,” Tandir’s representative told SPORT.SK. “All this is in fact dealt with on the fly and on the last day of the window. The condition was that the contract in Olomouc would be canceled and then all the necessary requirements would be resolved for the transfer to take place formally as it should. Ismar finally signed a contract with Michalovce until the end of the current year, and if both parties are satisfied, it will be possible to extend the cooperation.”

The Žltomodrí are currently in last place in the league table, with eight points from ten matches. At 25 years old, Tandir is something of a veteran in the sport, having carved out a successful career that’s stretched across Europe. Now at his 11th club since 2013, perhaps he will be able to secure some stability and make a push for a senior call-up to the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team.


Sometimes the journey takes a little bit of time to get started. There was a relative amount of fanfare and flowery language when Fidel Escobar joined Spanish second division side AD Alcorcón, but little has come to pass following an initial minor muscle issue. The Panamanian international has yet to appear in a match, a curious situation for one who is so talented. According to El Siglo, the defender “traveled to Panama to resolve some personal issues.”

However, Alcorcón has bigger issues to handle. The club had a recent match suspended after “four cases of positive COVID-19 were detected between players and personnel.” After one win in the first five fixtures, The Potters are currently in the Segunda División’s four-team relegation zone. Perhaps it might be time for the Madrid-based club to seek the help of a defender with World Cup experience currently restricted to the bench, but that’s just a suggestion, He’s on a three-year contract, so maybe the club should consider using him.


What’s the point in being a sporting director if you’re not going to make a lot of moves? Peguy Luyindula is living by that mantra, being very active in that role for Ligue 1 club Dijon FCO. “I would like the transfer window to be calm,” he said in June. “That would mean we have everything we need.” The former Red Bull has been very busy, acquiring 12 players and showing nine the door.

Will that be enough to change the current trajectory at Dijon? Les hiboux (the owls) are winless this season, with two points from seven matches. Luyindula certainly selected a challenging situation for his front office job, but one’s first position is rarely directly at the top of a particular field.

Instead of relying on hope and sticking to the plan, Luyindula is opting for radical change and attempting to force a move up the table. If the players gel, the former French international will be lauded as a genius. If they don’t, he’ll likely be looking for new employment, albeit with some experience under his belt.


Not every academy player ends up making it to the first team. Many join other clubs, including Spanish side CD Leganés. That’s the reported location of two former Red Bulls youth prospects, Salvador Pliego and Amadeo Chapru-Tate. They’ll be suiting up for the Leganes U-23s in Group 7B of the Tercera División.

Chapru-Tate played for the Red Bulls Academy before moving to Barca Residency. He was featured in a video produced by Men in Blazers ahead of the 2017 edition of the Hudson River Derby. After starting his youth career in East Hanover, Pliego moved to UNAM Pumas, turning down interest from Chivas, Tigres, Pachuca, and Club América. However, while on trial in Europe, he was linked to Leganés by “a colleague with whom he played at Red Bulls.”

There is no direct or correct route to professional soccer. Success is not a straight line. Hopefully both players enjoy their time living and working in Spain, an experience many never get to enjoy.


Obviously, Jorge Simão didn’t get the Red Bulls job, despite a source listing the Portuguese manager as a candidate. Instead of sitting on the sideline of life, he’s been hired by Royal Excel Mouscron of the Belgian First Division A. The 44-year-old replaces Fernando Da Cruz, who was dismissed after a bleak start to the season.

Simão was recently the manager of Saudi club Al-Fayha FC, a tenure that ended in August with his departure right before relegation. Mouscron finds itself in a similar fight, at the bottom of the table with three points from nine matches. However, Les Hurlus are a mere three points away from escaping the drop, so the job is not impossible but merely difficult.


One former Red Bull player is continuing his managerial career. After eight months with Newcastle Jets, Carl Robinson was announced as the new head coach of fellow A-League club Western Sydney Wanderers. The Welshman referred to the job as “an opportunity too good to turn down” with a “big club… that has set the foundations to be very successful.”

Western Sydney finished last season in ninth place in the 11-team league, with 33 points from 26 matches. The club was only recently created in 2012, but enjoyed a solid run of form on the banks of the Parramatta River. WSW has claimed one domestic title and three times finished as runners-up in the Grand Finals (playoffs). The club’s crowning achievement was capturing the AFC Champions League in 2014, a stunning feat for a recently formed entity.

Perhaps Robinson is the man to lead the club back to its former glory. The 44-year-old closed out his playing career with the Red Bulls, making 13 appearances in 2010 and 2011. He then joined the Vancouver Whitecaps as an assistant before being named manager prior to the 2014 season. His tenure lasted until his departure in September of 2018 due to “internal reasons” that he chooses not to share.

Prior to entering the coaching field, Robinson sought the advice of several key figures in his professional life, including former Red Bulls manager Hans Backe. The message was a simple, “You’re ready.” It appears he’s on the right path, always employed in a competitive field and credited as the developer of Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies.

Here’s a joke that was submitted by Harriet of Nutley.

I bet his next signing in Australia will be a man from Brussels who is six-foot-four and full of muscles.

Thank you, Harriet. You’re the rare type who can slide a pop culture reference into any situation.


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