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Red Bulls Round-Up: December 11, 2020

The club look towards the future with a possible pro contract for a 14-year-old while former Red Bulls bounce around Canada, Wales, and Finland in this week’s links

MLS: Real Salt Lake at New York Red Bulls
In just three years Fredrik Gulbrandsen has gone from struggling Red Bulls loanee to Champions League standout
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

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

Last Tuesday, I made my daily venture to the bakery to pick up my well-balanced breakfast of muffins and pastries. I held the door open for a woman, smearing chocolate all over the handle. She didn’t notice, but paused and asked, “Are you the guy who writes the Red Bulls Round-Up?” I responded in the affirmative. She informed me that she reads it every week with her boyfriend. I thanked her, walked home, and ate my assortment of continental breakfast items in the dark while listening to The Cure.

Here’s this week’s top story.

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Is there a new Homegrown signing on the horizon? According to Brian Sciaretta of American Soccer Now, the Red Bulls “might be making a move to sign Bento Estrela.” The 14-year-old is a highly-rated member of the club’s Under-17 squad, obviously playing against competition several years older.

Writer Eric Friedlander of Red Bull Hub describes Estrela as “capable of playing in all three midfield spots” and in possession of “good skill on the ball and the range to spray passes in order to switch the point of attack.” He was one of the first players to take advantage of New York’s educational partnership with Scholar Athletes Leadership Academy. With Kevin Thelwell promising a greater focus on the development setup and increased integration of youth players, a steady stream of similar news should be expected and anticipation.

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What’s the next move for Samuel Tetteh? An exclusive report by Football Ghana reveals that the 24-year-old will return to Red Bull Salzburg in January. He still “aims to achieve a regular place” with the national team, although the Accra native has not appeared with the Black Stars for quite some time.

Tetteh was loaned with an option to buy to the Red Bulls on August 11th. He made 11 appearances and scored zero goals. His contract was not extended or made permanent, and now he returns to Salzburg on a deal that lasts through the summer of 2022. Perhaps Jesse Marsch will be able to unlock the Ghanaian’s attacking prowess or there is another loan in the offing.

The destination likely won’t be LASK Linz this time. Strengthening one’s rival is hardly a prudent choice for loans, particularly when you’re in second and they’re atop the table.

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Calling all squad cars! We have a potential emergency!

Recent interim manager Bradley Carnell published on his personal Twitter account that he may have been a victim of fraud. The Red Bulls assistant coach claims he was impersonated and implores South African telecom giant Vodacom and its soccer vertical, Vodacom Soccer, to rectify the situation. The 43-year-old presumably is asking for assistance from the public in identifying the alleged perpetrator, posting and asking others to share a photograph of the information he states is “the copy used to scam [the company].”

I’ll keep an eye out, Bradley. We will right this alleged wrong. If I see this person in my bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, or maybe the supermarket on Sunday when I am out of enough things and find the energy to go, I will let you know.

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New York Red Bulls II attacker Omar Sowe was profiled by NJ.com. He recently finished his first full season as a professional player, appearing to be one the reserve squad’s standouts. The 20-year-old notes his growth and development with the team.

”I picked up a lot of things in my second year,” said Sowe. “As a player, you always want to make sure you’re getting better. I feel like from the beginning to the end, I’ve gained a lot as a player. Overall, I’m just better. So overall, it was a good year even though it wasn’t the year I wanted. I made the most out of it.”

Sowe joined the USL reserve side in August of 2019. Since then, he’s made 20 overall appearances and scored nine goals. Perhaps as a sign of things to come, the native of The Gambia spent the latter part of this season training with the first team.

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As you all know, first prize is a Supporters’ Shield. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you miss the playoffs.

In an American soccer world lacking the major television deal, ticket sales is perhaps the key revenue stream driving the business forward. New York Red Bulls Sales Academy manager Kristin Durning appeared on the B4WorkingInSports podcast to discuss her background and provide a glimpse behind the scenes of the sports business industry. On the episode, Session #12, she revealed how the club helps employees identify their best attributes and succeed.

“I actually did a handful of personality tests,” she shared with the four hosts. “They’ve developed their own internal personality assessment where they identify your strengths. Red Bull really believes in building on individual strengths instead of fixing weaknesses… They identify your strengths and then what they’ll do is they’ll show you the ceiling of your strengths and the basement of your strengths.”

Durning shares the challenges behind launching and staffing the Sales Academy, particularly finding the first class of representatives. She also created a “Wings Program’’ that provides an opportunity for employees to receive management training. The episode is worth a listen for anyone who is interested in the industry or wants to learn a little more about sales at the Red Bulls.

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Sean Davis passed an important milestone this season, becoming the first Homegrown in club history to start 100 matches. He spoke with Steven Bassin of CentralJersey.com about his career and life with the club. The Red Bulls midfielder “will always treasure” the start that helped him pass the century mark, believing it’s “something to build off” on the way to MLS Cup.

Davis has done a lot of work with the community and at the club. He participates in the Tackle Cancer program and maintains a relationship with all of the Red Bulls players under his captaincy. It’s no wonder the club recently exercised his option for next season.

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Former Red Bulls manager Juan Carlos Osorio had a rough situation with covid-19. According to reports, he was forced to use an oxygen tank and his wife was hospitalized. The former Mexico and Paraguay manager was infected shortly after being let go from his most recent job at Atlético Nacional.

Apparently feeling a lot better Osorio has received several offers from parties interested in securing his services. The Colombian national team, Independiente de Medellín, and Deportivo Pereira are the three organizations currently leading the race to hire the man affectionately known as “The Professor.” He was most intrigued by Pereira, but has several conditions that must be met before taking a job, particularly involving support and his ability to run the show. While the door “is still open,” the 59-year-old will likely look elsewhere for his next position.

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Make some space in the trophy cabinet because the Red Bulls claimed another piece of silverware. The Sports Turf Managers Association named the Red Bulls Academy Field as “Field of the Year” in the Professional Soccer category. Manager of RBTF Operations Zach Holm was selected by the panel of 14 judges and will receive a plaque.

The Red Bulls previously won the award in 2018, which can only mean that this is the start of a green dynasty. The fields were chosen “based on playability, appearance of surfaces, utilization of innovate solutions, effective use of budget and implementation of a comprehensive agronomic program.” The Training Facility has also received a “Certification for Environmentally Responsible Management” from the STMA.

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As everyone expected, the hottest player in Turkish soccer is Fredrik Gulbrandsen. The Norwegian attacker spent less than three months with New York in 2017 but departed due to the club’s inability to adapt to a two-striker formation. He returned to Salzburg, racked up the goals, and made a free transfer to İstanbul Başakşehir in the summer 2019 transfer window.

Gulbrandsen largely served as a rotational starter during last season’s triumphant run to the top of the Süper Lig table, struggling with injuries, playing in his less preferred winger role, and not converting in the attacking third. His second year with the club started on a similar note until the calendar flipped to November. Since then, he’s scored five goals in three consecutive matches, generating headlines labeling the 28-year-old a “rising star” and starting in Başakşehir’s inaugural entrance into the Champions League. “I have to admit that it has been tough since the end of last season,” confessed the toast of Istanbul. “It is clear you get cursed when it turns out the way it does. Hopefully my situation has changed a bit now.”

Fortune continues to smile on Fredrik and those beautiful, tight calf muscles.

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Recent weeks have brought waves of roster announcements not just in MLS but throughout the landscape of American pro soccer, particularly in the USL Championship. Charleston Battery exercised their contract option on former Red Bulls SuperDraft pick Zeiko Lewis, keeping the two-time Offensive Player of the Year in South Carolina. Former Homegrown Amando Moreno is set for another year with New Mexico United after leading the club to the Western Conference semifinals with six goals and five assists.

One-time Generation Adidas signing Corey Hertzog found himself on the hunt for a new home after Reno 1868 FC ceased operations due to the covid-19 pandemic and continued stadium development issues. The former Penn State Nittany Lion and 2010 NCAA scoring champion bounced back quickly, signing with San Diego Loyal. Hertzog was identified by manager Landon Donovan as a player with “work ethic, goal scoring ability, and leadership [that] will be a huge asset in 2021 and beyond.” The former Red Bull links up with another past player, MLS Cup champion Sal Zizzo, who captains the California side.

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Who is the former Red Bull leading Haverfordwest County AFC up the Cymru Premier table? One-time academy goalkeeper Wojciech Gajda has taken the reins at the club that currently sits at sixth in the 12-team top flight of Welsh soccer. He made his first start for the Bluebirds on November 28th and has held on to the number one spot. The change paid off as the Polish-American is 2-0-1 since taking over the role.

Gajda left the Red Bulls Academy for Britain in 2016, signing a professional contract with Heart of Midlothian after trials with Leeds United and Manchester United. He then spent some time at Polish clubs Sokół Kolbuszowa and Stal Mielec II before eventually making his way to Wales. Haverfordwest – a storied semi-pro club that was founded in 1899 and plays at the Bridge Meadow Stadium – was unexpectedly promoted from the second division Cymru South after Swansea University FC did not receive licensing.

Regardless of how the club reached the top flight, it appears that both Bluebirds and Gajda deserve to be competing against the best that Wales has to offer. The young goalkeeper is certainly one to watch.

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Former Red Bulls defender Ronald Zubar suffered from a covid-19 scare, an experience that “exhausted” him. The 35-year-old detailed his list of symptoms to La Provence and states that he followed his doctor’s instructions. However, his former agent and club president at Marseille, Pape Diouf, passed from the disease.

Outside of the medical world, Zubar has “set up an [soccer] academy within the framework of the International Bilingual School of Aix-en-Provence.” The ZE Football Academy allows students to attend classes while also training with former professional players and at a club. The former French youth international hopes to eventually send some of the best players to Red Bull Salzburg or American colleges on scholarship.

I have already informed my children that they will be moving to Aix-en-Provence as soon as they reach high school. Paying 30,000 Euros per year for boarding school is a mere pittance when factoring in training sessions with Supporters’ Shield winner Ronald Zubar. I don’t have any children, but the school and soccer academy sound fun. I’m fine.

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Sometimes the forest must burn for truth growth to occur. JK Tallinna Kalev and sporting director Joel Lindpere were relegated from the ten-team Estonian Meistriliiga with five wins and 20 points in 30 matches. A disappointing season to be sure, but the Esiliiga may turn out to be more purgatory than Hell.

“I’m sorry for the players and the staff, they put in a lot of effort in the last few months,” Lindpere told Vikerraadio. “The [second tier] is a place for us to study… Tactically, based on our club’s identity, we can move forward and try to find a way for our own youth to take the club back to the [top division]. It’s a very interesting period and we talked about finding the positive.”

Kalev finished the season with two wins, two ties, and a loss, so that run of form might provide some optimism for the future. Lindpere took the job in May of 2016, navigating the club to a promotion and three years in the top flight. Now he has to do the job again, albeit this time with more experience.

If Lindpere ever gets bored with soccer, there’s always his thriving poker hobby. The Red Bulls legend [Yes.] serves as an ambassador for Kalev sponsor Coolbet sportsbook and regularly competes in tournaments. The man described as “Estonia’s most famous footballer” once finished in second place in the Main Event of the Estonian Poker Championship and reached the final table of the Main Event at the Grand Series of Poker Live tournament in Prague.

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Former Red Bulls sporting director and current Toronto FC general manager Ali Curtis announced the start of “an innovative and interpersonal mentorship program that will closely connect players in the TFC Academy with the club’s professional players.” One of the stewards of this new organizational push is former New York Red Bull Jeremy Hall. The retired player is the head coach of the club’s U-14 side and will be responsible for providing “off-field development opportunities that will equip them to navigate systemic barriers facing youth today.”

Hall was drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Maryland. He spent two seasons in New York and made 46 appearances across all competitions before moving to Portland. Way back in 2009 the Puerto Rican international was one of three players sent to train with Red Bull Salzburg.

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Yes, Macoumba Kandji is still playing. You’re not that old. The 35-year-old striker recently notched a fourth-place finish with FC Honka in the Finnish Veikkausliiga, his second stint with the club. He scored four goals in 21 league and cup appearances, which was admittedly below the 2018 rate of 16 in 26 matches.

Now Kandji is moving on from the team located in the second city of Espoo. “Thank you to the entire organization of Honka top to bottom,” he posted on Twitter. “The coaching staff, the fans, and to my teammates now and past. It was [a] great pleasure and the memories will live on.”

Kandji was a member of the Red Bulls from 2008 through 2010, originally joining the club on loan from the Atlanta Silverbacks. After departing New York, he forced the decisive game-winning own goal for the Colorado Rapids in the 2010 MLS Cup final. Following a stint with the Houston Dynamo, the Senegal native bounced around from Greece to Saudi Arabia to Iran intermixed with several stints at various Finnish clubs.

What’s the next stop on the professional soccer journey? Stay tuned. Perhaps after a far-off retirement he will consider a career in the garment industry.

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There have been several murky, unidentified rumors involving supposed teams interested in making a transfer play for one Amir Murillo. Well, I can’t name any specific clubs, but according to a report from Het Laatste Nieuws, they are located in Russia, France, and Spain. Considering the star Panamanian right back just signed a five-year extension with Anderlecht, it doesn’t appear that he’ll be dining on blini and caviar, strolling on the Champs-Élysées, or sprinting through the streets of Pamplona in July.

To be honest, I can’t imagine Murillo has any remaining interest in running with bulls of any type, particularly red ones. Let’s move on to the next story.

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After searching high and low for a place to call home, it appears that Andrew Jean-Baptiste has found a stable club situation. The American defender signed a contract extension with Valour FC of the Canadian Premier League. The 28-year-old was a revelation at The Island Games and is “very comfortable and settled in Winnipeg.”

Baptiste recently told CanPL.com that something about the club “just feels right.” No longer interested in chasing fame and fortune, he’s content to “look for happiness and comfort.” After bouncing from Spain to Sweden to Malaysia back to Sweden in five years, stability in a solid league can’t be overstated. The New York native has a real shot at qualifying for the 2022 World Cup with an ever-improving Haitian national team that reached the semi-finals of the 2019 Gold Cup.

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By the time you read this story, there will probably be another update.

At this point I don’t think D.C. United even knows who the next manager will be. While Chris Armas was considered the presumptive favorite and mere minutes away from being hired, a report on Tuesday by Kristian Dyer named Columbus Crew assistant Ezra Hendrickson as the front-runner. Then, Dylan Butler indicated that “contract talks broke down” for Armas, with Seattle Sounders assistant Gonzalo Pineda named as the new top choice.

However, the capital employment hopes of the former Red Bulls manager appear to be not dead yet. A few hours later, Pablo Maurer of The Athletic reported, “Armas is not out of the running and has not walked away.” A follow-up from Steven Goff of the Washington Post reveals that the search is “down to four candidates, including Armas” and “a [not imminent] decision would come sometime in December.”

Here’s a joke that was submitted by Edith of Denville.

I haven’t been on the edge of my seat like this since the episode of Murder, She Wrote when Jessica gets stuck in a dungeon.”

Thank you, Edith. “Nan’s Ghost” is indeed excellent television. I believe Jessica’s season 12 journey to Ireland is a two-parter.

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