Former Red Bulls forward Carlos Rivas has offered a bitter appraisal of his time with RBNY, claiming to have not been given a fair chance by then-manager Jesse Marsch and that cultural bias may have been at play.
Rivas, who played with Red Bulls for the opening months of the 2018 season after arriving from Orlando City as part of the exchange for Sacha Kljestan, made these statements last week in an interview with Colombian soccer website Golombianos.
“When I found out, I was very excited. We know how big that team is in the United States, but I arrived and the coach who was there did not let me play much in those six months. He almost didn’t like Latinos, so it was a little complicated. I talked to him, he said he was going to get me but the days passed and nothing. At last I decided to come to Colombia again.”
The Colombian striker made ten appearances across all competitions for RBNY in the opening four months of the 2018 campaign, scoring a second half brace against Portland at Red Bull Arena before ultimately fading from the first team picture after the reckless conceding of a penalty a week later in Salt Lake.
Rivas also cited the cold climate of the Northeast as a factor in his failure to launch at RBNY, although he also went on to lament the intense heat of his previous MLS home city of Orlando.
“(We) lived in New Jersey, very cold. I had to go out with gloves, hat, jacket, I had to go out armored because the cold was very stubborn. I couldn’t play in a game because my toes got numb and I wasn’t able to pass, we were playing at -15 degrees.”
“Being in Orlando I was able to take my parents to see the parks...but it was very hot and I didn’t like going. It is hot and humid there.”
Rivas made several appearances in USL for the Red Bulls II reserve team before leaving New York and MLS to return to his home country with Atlético Nacional in July 2018. After a scoreless season-and-a-half with Nacional, he most recently played in the Israeli league for Hapoel Ra’anana, making three appearances with no goals before the suspension of play in spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While Rivas’ professional output since his departure from Harrison is a drag on his claims, he is not the first player to sense a cultural disconnect in the RBNY locker rooms of recent years. Long-term friction with Jamaican fullback Kemar Lawrence included accusations of underpaying Caribbean players and an uncomfortable press conference analysis of Jamaican culture by Jesse Marsch. Former all-star Michael Amir Murillo found himself in physical altercations with Marsch’s successor Chris Armas and was eventually benched for now-departed reserve fullback Rece Buckmaster before joining Lawrence in transferring to Belgian giants Anderlecht this past offseason.
For some international players, sheer distance seems to have been a challenge. Though Argentines Gonzalo Veron and Kaku have enjoyed different levels of playing time in Harrison, both have openly expressed homesickness on social media. And while Central American senior internationals Fidel Escobar and Allen Yanes were a shorter plane ride from home, their paths to the first team remained blocked.
Given this recent history, Rivas is probably not wrong to suggest a disconnect between the club and some of its international players. However it seems possible this was but one of several barriers posed to the Colombian in 2018. With the iconic Bradley Wright-Phillips leading the line on a record-setting team, Rivas’s minutes were likely to be limited from the outset, and Rivas’s resume paints a picture of a center forward reliant on consistent minutes and service for production.
After a brief run on the wing in rotated league squads while the first team competed in CCL, there were not many second chances for Rivas. Any cultural disconnect with a notoriously-demanding management regime couldn’t have helped.