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Red Bulls Round-Up: December 4, 2020

Chris Armas linked to DC United, Gio Savarese linked to Real Madrid, and Jan Gunnar Solli linked to...The Masked Singer?

Toronto FC v New York Red Bulls Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but a news roundup a week helps the fan base wet its beak. I’m not an important person. I know that in the overall scheme of things, my contribution to the well-being of this planet is minimal to none. So, why am I continuing to write this post instead of doing something more validating or worthwhile with my time? I suppose it is a habit, but now practiced on Fridays.

Here’s this week’s top story.

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It has been an upside-down and topsy-turvy coaching search for D.C. United. First, the club had identified four candidates. Then, it was revealed Chris Armas had some new competition for the role from Manchester City assistant Rodolfo Borrell. Pablo Maurer of The Athletic reported the talks are “serious” and the Spaniard “wants to come [to MLS].” Although another subsequent story indicated the club would select a “U.S.-based candidate.”

Armas had his “second interview” on November 16th but had not yet sealed the deal. However, the most recent report labeled him as the “front-runner” due to possessing “MLS head coaching experience.” A follow-up by Dylan Butler revealed that he is to be “the next D.C. United coach barring anything unforeseen.”

The 48-year-old has plenty of experience, including winning a Supporters’ Shield in 2018. The former Red Bulls manager was fired in September and is highly respected by the American soccer community, being frequently described as a good person who deeply cares about the game.

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Could a MetroStars legend be hired to the staff of Real Madrid? While it doesn’t appear likely, don’t be shocked if current Timbers manager Giovanni Savarese ends up employed by the Spanish giants or somewhere else. On the December 12th, 2020 episode of Bleav in Soccer, Shep Messing cautiously hinted at the possibility of a future move.

“I’ll give you another little rumor though, a whisper I’m hearing about maybe the next coach in Major League Soccer to end up coaching in Europe,” the Renaissance man shared with co-host Steve Cangialosi. “It’s far-fetched right now, but Real Madrid – of course, in disarray, [Zinedine] Zidane there – a lot of talk about Raúl taking over. I don’t think he’s the front-runner, [Mauricio] Pochettino really is, but if and when Raúl gets a job in Spain, guess who I think is going to join him there? Giovanni Savarese because the ceiling. You talked about Gio and how great a career he’s had so far, speaks three languages, very close to Raúl when he coached him here. And if Raúl gets a job, I would not be surprised to see [if] Gio did what Jesse Marsch did.”

Savarese is one of the most important figures in New York soccer history. He was the Red Bulls’ all-time leading goal scorer for several years and established the club’s vaunted youth system. The former Venezuelan international has been in charge of Portland since December of 2017, making the playoffs for three straight seasons and winning the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament.

Messing shares that Raúl “absolutely loves” Savarese and “they stay in touch” since their time together with the New York Cosmos. The jump from MLS to Europe can seem a bit steep at the manager position. Working as an assistant would be a good way to break into that level, as Marsch proved by taking what in a vacuum would seem like a step down to RB Leipzig before assuming the top job at Red Bull Salzburg.

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Amidst a reported maelstrom of interest from other clubs, Amir Murillo signed a massive contract extension with RSC Anderlecht. The new deal lasts through 2025. The Panamanian right back has thrived at the Belgian club, contributing three goals and five assists in 22 matches and not missing a single minute of play this season.

“I’m happy to sign a new contract here,” Murillo shared in a video released by Anderlecht. “I have almost one year here. I miss my family every day. It was difficult but at the same time it is motivation for me.”

The club then surprised Murillo with a video of family and friends in Panama wishing congratulations for signing the new deal. He got a little emotional, which is understandable given global and personal circumstances. Perhaps Red Bulls fans have a similar reaction when thinking about the player described as “everything you look for in a modern fullback.”

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Staying in the Championship, new manager Valérien Ismael has Barnsley supporters asking, “Gerhard Who-ber?” Times are good at the Oakwell, with The Tykes miles away from the relegation zone and settled into a comfortable mid-table position. Players are responding to the recently hired Frenchman’s “confidence and reassurance of what he wants [them] to do on the pitch.” The club has even been recently linked to Mario Balotelli, which is a sign of something – of what, I have no idea.

Red Bulls manager Gerhard Struber was widely lauded for the job he did at Barnsley, although it has been noted that the club benefited from Wigan Athletic receiving a massive point deduction. Was he somehow underperforming despite constant requests for new players and thinly veiled complaints of ownership? That’s possibly true, but Ismael is largely using similar tactics and a squad that consists of several transfers made under the previous manager.

For now, it’s a story to watch, a fun little comparison to monitor and mention if Struber fails to get off to a fast start when the MLS season kicks off in March.

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The upcoming story is graphic in nature.

It appears prior reports had the story wrong. While the brother of Kemar Lawrence did not die, he was in a serious motorcycle accident. The Jamaican international was forced to “get his own brother out of the crash, put him in the car, and take him to the hospital.” He was then forced to make the decision between foot amputation and a possibly fatal surgery, of which he chose the former.

No one can blame Lawrence for needing an extended break from playing after such a harrowing experience. Anderlecht and Vincent Kompany deserve credit for sticking by their player, only publicly commenting on the situation to express support. The 28-year-old has thrived since returning to the Belgian club, starting three matches at left back alongside Amir Murillo and Matt Miazga.

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There’s a lot of mystery on the Norwegian television show Maskorama (a reality competition based on The Masked Singer), particularly surrounding the identity of Elgen (the moose). Some viewers think it might be none other than retired footballer and DJ Jan Gunnar Solli. Clues to Elgen’s identity include a love for “music and dance” and also carrying a soccer ball in his introductory video.

The former Red Bull is taking the discourse in stride. “That there is speculation that it is me is just nice, it shows that people think of me as an entertainment contributor,” Solli told Dagbladet. “I have family who [would feel] very badly done if I am ‘Elgen’ and they have not been told to turn on the TV every Saturday. I guess [I won’t receive a lot of] Christmas food if it turns out that it was me.”

This would not be Solli’s first foray into the reality television competition world. In 2018, he finished in second place on season 14 of Skal vi dance? (the Norwegian version of Strictly Come Dancing). The fleet-footed midfielder/defender received higher scores from the judges but lost when the viewers’ votes were counted.

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Despite not yet airing a single episode, I have a favorite television program. Entourage creator Doug Ellin is teaming up with Thierry Henry to craft a compelling show about “a young footballer and his crew as they navigate his growing stature and struggles.” The former Red Bulls Designated Player previously appeared in the Entourage film, which was a crowning cinematic achievement only to be cruelly ignored and shut out at the Academy Awards.

“Entourage was one of my favorite TV shows,” Henry told Deadline. “When Doug invited me on set to film my brief cameo appearance in the movie, I never would have thought that I would be part of bringing a new TV show to life. Hopefully I can share some of my experiences as this topic is much closer to my heart.”

Hey, Henry, do me a favor and tell Arsene I said, “What up?”

Oh, it’s the “We Don’t Drink Red Bull” crew!

[Third line from Entourage]

***

Global superstar Tyler Adams talked to Manuel Veth of transfermarkt in an exclusive interview. The Leipzig midfielder touched on a variety of topics including Americans in the Bundesliga, the needs of the national team, and a certain talented young player by the name of Caden Clark. The 17-year-old is reportedly set to follow a similar path, moving to the German sister club after the 2021 season.

“He’s a quality player, and we have the same agent,” said Adams. “He visited Leipzig when I was here, so I was able to meet him and his family… He’s obviously scored amazing goals, but you know beyond just the goals, he’s a quality player… He looks like he’s grown and developed in just these few games in the MLS, so I’m excited to see what he’s capable of next year.”

Clark will see a lot of playing time for the Red Bulls next season, already having shouldered the weight of great expectations. If and when the eventual move to Leipzig occurs, it appears he already has a mentor-in-waiting. For now, there’s MLS and Open Cups to win and a Shield to claim.

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Is scoring 13 goals in 15 matches good? That’s the production rate of Brentford striker Ivan Toney who has more than justified the £5 million transfer fee (with escalating add-ons up to £10 million) that was paid to League One side Peterborough United. The Bees are in the midst of another promotion race, appearing destined for a run in the playoffs.

Toney was, of course, the rumored subject of several summer bids from the Red Bulls. Based on the 24-year-old striker’s stated desire to “play at the highest possible level – the Premier League,” it seems unlikely he would have made his way to the humble confines of Major League Soccer. However, every goal remains a hypothetical feather in the cap of Red Bulls sporting director Kevin Thelwell and head of scouting Paul Fernie, validating their eye for talent.

Or is it bad to have your statistical profile compared to that of Zlatan Ibrahimović?

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In 2017, Red Bull produced a soccer miniseries titled The Streets Don’t Lie hosted by former French international striker Djibril Cissé. Each of the three episodes featured a trio of players from a seemingly random city competing for a trial at one of the clubs under the umbrella. London was the source for Leipzig, Berlin hosted the Salzburg tryout, and New York had Paris.

Despite not finding a future Parisian star, Cissé did manage to unearth and provide a platform to some talented players. The original winner of the competition, Yazid Omri, ended up not accepting the trial due to the emergence of another opportunity with an English Championship club. He eventually made his way to the United States, initially recruited by the University of Mobile before joining the University of the Pacific and Florida Elite SA of USL League Two.

Runner-up Ferdinand Takyi was awarded with a trial and spent some time at the Red Bulls Training Facility. The towering striker is in possession of some level of talent, but the club opted against signing due to lack of tactical and physical fit with the high press. Despite the show’s postscript claiming interest from elsewhere in MLS, he continued working his way through the lower leagues of Europe and is now with SK Bischofshofen of the third-tier Austrian Regionalliga Salzburg.

Talent can come from anywhere, and the trialist market is usually interesting if not always fruitful. For those reasons, Cissé and Red Bull should produce another round of The Streets Don’t Lie. We’ve had one, yes. What about a second miniseries?

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It’s bad luck for Carlos Rivas and even worse luck for Deportivo Cuenca. The former Red Bull picked up a knee injury, according to Javier Velasquez of Ecuagoal. The medical diagnosis is “medial collateral ligament distention plus edema of the medial femoral condyle cartilage.” He is expected to be out for the next three weeks.

Cuenca is in an intense relegation fight, currently in last place in the Ecuadorian Serie A. Rivas has one goal and one assist on the year, mostly playing as a winger. He previously suffered a knee injury while at his previous club, Hapoel Ra’anana, but it’s unknown if the previous and current health problems are related.

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MCs Cousin Feo and Lord Juco teamed up with underground producer Big Ghost to unleash another round of Death at the Derby to fans. The duo raps about soccer rivalries and this time took aim at the yearly battle contested between the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC. According to Urban Pitch, the project “didn’t disappoint” and “maintains the hard-hitting boom-bap feel of previous works, but with a new feel.”

There was a special edition vinyl released, with 50 red and 100 black albums available for Red Bulls fans. The album is selling well, with most copies already snatched up by eager listeners. Don’t worry about missing out because, according to Cousin Feo, there is a “digital version droppin’ soon.

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Former Red Bulls II attacker Sebastian Elney appeared on the Perfect Soccer podcast hosted by Quincy Amarikwa. He discussed his youth career, answered some personal questions, and talked about his time in USL. The 23-year-old revealed that his professional debut was made wearing shoes borrowed at the last minute from Marcus Epps.

Elney made 37 total appearances in two seasons with the Red Bulls, scoring seven goals. The former U.S. youth international recently had his option declined by the club. He will move on, navigating the soccer landscape with professional experienced gained from his time in New York.

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The “Anatole Abang in Portugal” update is that there is no update. According to the sporting newspaper of record… Record, the 24-year-old has yet to arrive in Portugal even though he signed in September. Writer Armando Alves reports the Cameroonian striker “remains absent in Moldova” and “there is still no indication of when the bureaucratic problems that will allow him to travel may be solved.”

Life is dark but not all bad for his intended club. Portimonense is still in the relegation zone, but recently grabbed three points against mid-table Nacional. Safety is but a single point away, although more than that will surely be required as the season progresses. Perhaps the arrival of a certain player would aid the boys from Portimão in their quest.

However, since this is Abang, things have to get interesting. He may not be in Portugal, but reportedly he has been on trial in Bulgaria with CSKA Sofia. [https://topsport.bg/cska/parvo-v-topsport-anatole-abang-e-napadatelyat-koyto-kara-probi-v-tsska.html] Despite urgently needing a striker, the Yaoundé native “failed to impress” in training and friendlies and will not be signed. Maybe… consider the club you already joined?

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FC Andorra confirmed a case of coronavirus, with the victim being team captain Ruben Bover. The former Red Bull announced his positive test on social media. The club was forced to suspend a recent match, with reportedly more than five players contracting the virus.

Bover played for the Red Bulls from February 2013 through March 2015. The 28-year-old underwent a 10-day quarantine, during which he played a lot of video games. Andorra undoubtedly awaits his return, hoping that he can aid in the hunt for promotion to the Segunda División.

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Here’s a joke that was submitted by Virginia of Long Hill Township.

Maybe Abang thought he was signing with Portimonense for next season.

Thank you, Virginia. That would indeed be quite the comedic misunderstanding.