Welcome to the Red Bulls Round-Up presented by Once a Metro.
What is the thing that scares you the most? For me, it is the certainty that one day I will pass on from this life, having departed from my duties. I don’t have any friends and my family isn’t particularly fond of me, but I have this weekly post. I just hope that after my string runs out, someone is there to take on the writing of the Red Bulls Round-Up for me, for the fan base, and for the greater good. Heck, you can even have it now. You’re welcome to it. Please take it. I can’t stomach writing this anymore.
Here’s this week’s top story.
Following a successful stanza with the Venezuelan national team, Cristian Cásseres Jr. spoke with Idioma FutVE about international soccer and his future in Major League Soccer. Described as the “great revelation,” the 20-year-old played a key role in the historic victory away at Chile. He’s looking ahead to 2021, for both the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and the next Red Bulls season.
“It has been a very important year, I grew a lot as a player,” said Cásseres. “I got a lot of minutes in MLS and then the call for the national team arrived, to be a starter. It was a pretty good year. Now my goal is to get a title in the MLS, and I will continue to work for that.”
Despite a growing international profile and reputation, it appears he has no desire to leave the club during the upcoming transfer window. As for whether the midfielder is in Gerhard Struber’s plans, that’s an entirely different issue.
Who are the finest fullbacks in MLS under the age of 23? Mohammad Haris of Breaking the Lines compiled a list using all sorts of complex statistics, methodologies and charts that go far over my head, but I’m willing to trust the work considering it has a conclusion I find pleasing. Ranked at third is none other than Kyle Duncan.
The Red Bulls right back is one of the league’s prolific dribblers at the position, which makes sense considering how often the attack seems to run through his side of the field. Duncan is also successful at pressuring opponents, an obvious key component of the team’s tactical strategy. While he may not have completely filled the shoes of Amir Murillo, the 23-year-old academy player has turned anticipated turmoil into a seamless transition, allowing the front office to focus efforts elsewhere.
Professional athletes are not automatons. They are human beings with thoughts, feelings, and opinions on a variety of situations and issues. In a recent interview with So Foot, Florian Valot discussed the American election and how it translated to the Red Bulls’ locker room.
“There was a lot of discussion [among the team], especially on Election Day and the next three or four days,” said the French midfielder. “Our American teammates were aware that their choice was important and that their future was at stake… The subject has become the main source of discussion, for everyone.”
Valot referred to 2020 as “a year of sh*t,” but acknowledged that lockdowns have provided some people with the opportunity to spend more time researching and participating in the election cycle. In some ways, it was a year of waste. In others, it was not, especially for the 27-year-old who enjoyed a career season in MLS.
Defeat is just the prelude to a victory. Former Designated Player Rafa Marquez made his coaching debut, leading Real Alcalá’s Cadet A team to a fantastic 5-0 loss against Leganés B. The Mexican international moved into management after his short stint as Atlas’ sporting director went pear-shaped.
For those thinking the 41-year-old might end his brief retirement and return to the field, dash those thoughts from your mind. The recent rumor circulating that he would suit up for Racing Murcia was met by Marquez with a dismissive reaction GIF. It appears he is committed to the noble profession of coaching. I’m sure most New York fans are crossing their fingers in the hopes that on some beautiful day, dear, sweet Rafa will be manning the technical area of Red Bull Arena.
Prior to the playoff match, Brian White appeared on the Schwartz on Sports podcast, hosted by Peter Schwartz of NY Sports Day. The Red Bulls striker discussed the surreal nature of playing in empty stadiums. The team relies on fans and feeding off of their energy, so naturally he is looking forward to the end of the pandemic.
As many are aware, White spent his youth career with Players Development Academy, a rival of the Red Bulls Academy. The 24-year-old referred to signing for New York as “joining the dark side.” However, he couldn’t be happier to play for the club and it “means everything to play in front of friends and family.”
The Colgate University men’s soccer team named its All-Decade Team, with Jared Stroud among the honorees. The midfielder spent four years in Hamilton, New York, leading the Raiders to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in his senior season. The 24-year-old holds the school record for both single-season and career assists.
Former Red Bull Ethan Kutler was also included in the squad. The midfielder-defender is the second highest all-time points holder in Colgate history. The club’s pick in the second round of the 2017 SuperDraft was most recently with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in USL.
I hate the expression “opened his account” when a player scores a goal. It should be “made his first deposit” because opening the account would be joining the team. Anyway, Carlos Rivas made his first deposit in Ecuadorian Serie A, scoring Deportivo Cuenca’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Independiente del Valle.
Rivas has four appearances for his new club, showing no signs of the disastrous knee injury suffered last year while in Israel. Cuenca will need every ounce of his abilities to stave off relegation. The Morlacos (Fighting Bulls) are in 15th place in the aggregate table with 19 points but can jump all the way to 13th and safety with a single draw.
When Josh Sims departed MLS last summer, choosing not to extend his loan and returning to England, some inferred negativity surrounding the move. An interview with the Doncaster Free Press reveals that such thoughts could not be further from the truth. In fact, he “really enjoyed” his time with the Red Bulls, particularly off the field.
“It was the first time I’d been to New York,” said Sims. “It’s tough because when you’re playing you can’t really do the things that you would do when you’re on holiday. You find on days off that you’d try to cram everything in… I was a bit of a tourist. After training, I was doing all the things that people do.”
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic influenced his decision to return back to England, but Sims “learned a lot” in MLS. He was sent to the Red Bulls due to the club’s tactical similarity with Southampton and “to be more aggressive in [his] play.” The League One Messi has been more than aggressive with Doncaster, scoring six goals and assisting on five more in 12 matches.
Move over, Tony Meola. There’s another soccer player earning headlines for American football. One of the kickers on the Rutgers University football team is a former Red Bulls Academy scholar, Valentino Ambrosio.
After two years of college soccer, the Scarlet Knight switched sports this season and made his debut against the University of Illinois. He converted two field goals and two extra points in a 23-20 defeat and another two field goals in the 48-42 loss to Michigan. Ambrosio played with the Red Bulls U-16 side in 2016 before moving to Cedar Stars Academy-Monmouth.
Maybe one day he’ll succeed in a third sport utilizing the foot. May I suggest the high-flying game of the future, sepak takraw?
The Behind Sport Podcast talked to Andrew Vazzano, Red Bulls senior manager of digital and social media in a wide-ranging interview on the club’s media strategy and future goals. He discussed his transition from pursuing stories as a journalist to working in an interior role. Breaking news and packaging stories are viewed as a priority due to a lack of mainstream media coverage.
Vazzano stresses keeping the organization’s overall goals very broad and simple. “We want to show we’re the leading club in North America,” he told the hosts. “We want to show off our beautiful stadium and our players… There [are] a lot of different levers that we want to pull to get to that point. That’s where it gets complicated.”
The interview is enlightening and worth a listen for those interested in the promotion of a professional sporting organization and the implementation of various media strategies.
The Ralf Rangnick rumor mill tenuously spit out a new location: Derby County. The link was discussed on the BBC Sportscene Podcast, with host Eric Steele referring to the 62-year-old German as “an option” in response to the suggestion from a caller. The former Red Bull architect played amateur league football in England as a young exchange student and has frequently discussed trying his hand in the country professionally. Perhaps an ambitious Championship club like Derby would be a good fit, if it provides his desired structure, organizational philosophy, and willingness to hand over complete control.
From Italy, to Germany, and now in England, the wheel of potential destinations continues a-spinnin’. Amidst dismal results, Derby recently parted ways with manager Phillip Cocu. The Rams are at the bottom of the Championship with six points from 12 matches, which presents quite the challenge for any new hire. However, the club should know that you don’t pick Ralf Rangnick, he chooses you.
At the moment, an early favorite for the role is John Rooney’s brother, Wayne.
There’s nothing like a little spring cleaning after 30 years. Former Arsenal kit man Paul Johnson left the club in 2018 and decided to put his haul of memorabilia up for sale. There were shirts and shoes and medals and all sorts of doodads bringing in more that £100,000.
One of the notable items is a jersey worn by Thierry Henry in the Red Bulls’ summer of 2014 friendly against Arsenal. The shirt went for £620, which is roughly $825.02 or .045 Bitcoin for those who follow the markets. Unfortunately, the Daily Mail appears to be under the mistaken impression that the Gunners “won 1-0.” While it may be a shock that the gauche American side was able to triumph over the polished English mid-table club in a meaningless exhibition, it happened amid the tears of Tri-state area fans decked out in their bright red and white.
Former New York Red Bulls II player Steven Echevarria has a new club. The 24-year-old Academy graduate signed with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC for the 2021 season. According to the club, he “should immediately challenge for time in a talented midfield group.”
Echevarria joined the USL team in 2018 after four seasons with Wake Forest University. He made 18 appearances but had his option declined. During the 2019 preseason, the New York native went on trial with Loudoun United but was not picked up by the club. Following what appears to be two years in the wilderness, it appears he now has a home at which to build a professional career.
His determination is impressive. Enjoy Colorado Springs, Steven. I’ve heard it’s lovely.
Player management group Futbol Partners uploaded a highlight video to YouTube of its key client, Alejandro Sebastián Romero Gamarra, also known as Kaku. It’s been three years of “goals, skills, and assists” since the Argentine-Paraguayan creative midfielder joined the New York Red Bulls from Huracán. Early last year, he was linked with a move to Club America that ultimately stalled.
Who knows why his representation chose to compile and publicly share such a video heading into what should be a tumultuous offseason? It’s probably nothing. For now, enjoy the best moments from Kaku’s tenure with the Red Bulls.
Another former Red Bull on the move is Marius Obekop. Most recently with Nantong Zhiyun of the second-tier China League One, the Cameroonian youth international is squarely in the sights of strong Tunisian club CS Sfaxien. Located in the coastal “second city” of Sfax, Juventus El Arab (Juventus of The Arabs) finished runners-up in last season’s edition of the Championnat de la Ligue Professionnelle 1.
Obekop joined the Red Bulls in 2013 after beginning his career with Renaissance FC. He spent two years with the club before making stops at Orlando City B, Zaria Bălți (Moldova), Zimbru Chișinău (Moldova), and the previously mentioned Nantong. Now the 25-year-old is stamping his passport in Tunisia and will participate in the upcoming CAF Champions League, which is surely a first (or at the very most a third) for a MetroStars/Red Bulls player.
Some are looking back fondly on the tenure of Kevin Thelwell at Wolverhampton. Prior to joining the Red Bulls, the club’s former sporting director was insistent on signing attacking midfielder Dani Olmo from Dinamo Zagreb. Manager Nuno Santo, who has final say on transfers, opted to sign other players that happened to be Jorge Mendes clients.
Olmo joined RB Leipzig, helping lead the club to the Champions League semi-finals. To you, this might represent a meaningless commonality of two ships passing in the night of the transfer market. To others, it could demonstrate the head of sport’s eye for talent and add some reasoning or context for his inexplicable move stateside.
Barely, just barely FC Haka was able to avoid the relegation zone in the 2020 Veikkausliiga season. Teemu Tainio steered his club to 22 points in 22 matches, one more than 11th place Turun Palloseura. While that may not seem impressive to the infrequent consumer of Finnish soccer, the former Red Bulls midfielder turned fortunes around with a 3-2-1 record down the stretch. “It was a difficult season, but little by little it grew.” Tainio told the club’s official website.
Among the reasons for salvation was a tactical switch to a three-player back line, a “cards on the table” move that ended up working. There was also the presence of Teemu’s son, Maximus, who joined recently promoted Haka after spending time in Tottenham’s setup. The club is already focused on next season, retaining its maverick coach and signing a goalkeeper.
I have dreamed a dream, but now that dream has gone from me. Dijon FCO made the decision to dismiss manager Stéphane Jobard and sporting director Peguy Luyindula. The former Red Bull had only assumed the position in May after originally joining the club as a strategic advisor to the president.
Dijon is in last place in Ligue 1, winless in ten matches. President Olivier Delcourt explained his decision, claiming he “was not happy with the [player] recruitment.” Being let go is a disappointing experience at any level of employment in any field, but surely Luyindula will bounce back.
Here’s a joke that was submitted by Greta of Bloomingdale.
“Sounds like Dijon has a lot of work to do in order to ketchup.”
Thank you, Greta. You take the audience down one road and then hit them with a punchline they couldn’t see coming.
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