It took a month, but Red Bull New York has its man.
Following the dismissal of Chris Armas, Red Bull New York has announced the hiring of manager Gerhard Struber. The 43-year-old Austrian was recently in charge of Championship side Barnsley and has reportedly signed a three-year deal. According to the official press release, he will assume control “pending receipt of his U.S. work visa.” The club has paid an undisclosed release fee, rumored to be in the range of €2 million ($2.5 million).
“Gerhard is a bright coach, and we’re very pleased to welcome him to the club,” Head of Sport Kevin Thelwell said in the club’s statement. “Gerhard’s playing style and experience in youth development align with our philosophy and above all, as a person he fits into our culture. We look forward to him getting here and working together to achieve the goals we have set as a club.”
It’s been a rapid ascent up the ladder for the former player and youth coach. Struber began his managerial career with Salzburg reserve team FC Liefering, leading the side from June of 2017 through January of 2019. In July of 2019, he took over Wolfsberger AC, guiding the Austrian club to impressive results in the Europa League against AS Roma and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
His success drew the attention of several clubs, which lead to his hiring by Barnsley. Struber was able to avoid relegation, but friction grew as he questioned ownership’s ambition and his own lack of desire to be stuck in a Sisyphean battle at the bottom of the table. Barnsley CEO Dane Murphy thanked the departing manager, acknowledging that the club could not deny the buy-out clause and “his connection with the Red Bull set-up.”
Struber is thought of very highly by his former and now current employer. He was hired to manage in youth academy by former Red Bull director of football Ralf Rangnick. In what could be viewed as a surprising level of personal involvement at the club, Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz reportedly entered negotiations and committed to financing the release clause.
For the New York franchise, this hiring is an interesting step, one that seemingly brings the club more closely aligned with its foreign ownership. Struber is familiar with the club’s playing style, having continued playing the high energy gegenpress at both Wolfsberger and Barnsley. While expectations will likely be low for the rest of the abbreviated season as he adjusts to his new team, all eyes will be trained on the manager whose presence required what should be an MLS-record release clause for a non-player.
Since joining the club in February, Kevin Thelwell has made several significant moves, most notably firing Chris Armas and signing young English midfielder Dru Yearwood as a designated player. However, this is the ultimate decision upon which his tenure will judged. Whether Struber succeeds or fails, all credit and blame will lay at the feet of the Red Bulls’ head of sport regardless of how supportive and open ownership was to the hiring.