On Monday afternoon New York Red Bulls announced their end-of-season roster decisions in accordance with league mandates. Veteran midfielder Marc Rzatkowski, homegrown winger Ben Mines, and on-loan forward Samuel Tetteh were among the notable names to not have their contracts renewed.
New York Red Bulls Announce End of Year Roster Decisions https://t.co/0XOQ9MR62W— Red Bull New York (@NewYorkRedBulls) November 30, 2020
Further cuts included left back Patrick Seagrist, who previous sporting chief Denis Hamlett traded up for in this year’s college draft and started the team’s opening two matches, and third-string goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh, who never played a match for the first team or reserves after arriving from Portland. Though attacking midfielder Jared Stroud was rewarded with an extended contract after quietly impressive late season form, fellow Red Bulls II alum Chris Lema was part of Monday’s cuts.
In contrast with years past the announcements were more notable perhaps for who wasn’t released by the club, with several fringe players such as Sean Nealis and Tom Barlow seeing options picked up along with pricey veterans such as Daniel Royer and Alejandro Kaku Gamarra. The lack of major departures implies the club is tight on salary cap space, though this of course could change with potential transfers of valuable commodities such as Royer and Gamarra, who run a higher risk of becoming albatross contracts if not favored by new manager Gerhard Struber.
As for the players the club is bidding farewell to, most notable is likely Rzatkowski, the diminutive German who goes down in history as arguably the most successful of New York’s “synergy” signings having made 68 league appearances since arriving on a loan from sister club Red Bull Salzburg in 2018. The 30-year-old found frequent minutes over the last three seasons in a variety of roles, most commonly as a linking-and-pressing central midfielder but occasionally in wing and fullback roles as his versatility papered over frequent injuries and tactical shifts under the management of Chris Armas.
Mines leaves the club after a prodigious start as part of the reserve team’s 2016 league championship run as a 16-year-old was derailed by injury and management upheaval. The Connecticut-raised forward disappeared from the first team for almost two years after scoring on his senior debut against Portland in 2018, and despite a resurgence of first team action in this season’s pandemic-stuttered campaign was not able to earn a new contract with his hometown club. Mines, who had committed to Stanford University before signing a professional contract with the Red Bulls in 2018, is still only 20 years old and has plenty of time to build a career in soccer or elsewhere.
Thus officially begins the hot stove season for a Red Bulls team that is certainly in transition under newly-installed manager Struber, but may see less roster upheaval than one might expect in such a situation. Sporting chief Kevin Thelwell and head scout Paul Fernie arrived last offseason and have made several signings over the course of the year that were ostensibly made with Struber (or at least a manager similar to him) in mind. Young European fullbacks Mandela Egbo and Jason Pendant were followed by the club’s latest designated player in promising 20-year-old central midfielder Dru Yearwood, acquired via transfer fee from English Championship club Brentford midseason.
However if there’s one position that remains in flux, it’s the striker position in which none of Brian White, Tom Barlow, or outcast Danish signing Mathias Jørgensen solidified a claim to in 2020. Thelwell has already shown interest in improving the forward position having submitted bids for prized English striker Ivan Toney over the summer. Struber’s tactical approach is demanding of its (often two) center forwards, and one would expect New York to prioritize a proven senior pro in that area of the pitch before any other.