Welcome to the Red Bulls Round-Up presented by Once A Metro.
These days you can’t go anywhere without people talking about the New York Red Bulls. Just yesterday I was in the frozen foods section, perusing the latest crop of les pommes de terre frites, when I heard a woman discussing the club’s latest transfer rumors. I was stunned, floored, nearly dropping the bag of Ore-Ida Golden Crinkles that had taken three minutes of painstaking deliberation to select. Before I could turn to join in her conversation, she was gone, but the message is clear: like my cholesterol, American soccer is on the rise.
Here’s this week’s top story.
Here’s a little transfer rumor.
Is the club looking at an Argentine midfielder? According to Fernando Taveira of Infobae, the future of Guillermo Pol Fernández “is closer to the New York Red Bulls.” The 29-year-old, contracted to Cruz Azul, spent last season on loan with Boca Juniors.
The Red Bulls might be in the market for a center midfielder, and Gerhard Struber has noted a South American influence in MLS. He’s been connected to a few clubs including Celta de Vigo. However, the Granadero Baigorria native was registered by Cruz Azul for the upcoming season despite the rumor mill connecting him to MLS this past November.
This particular rumor might be a touch dated. There supposedly was discussion of the move on a recent episode of Radio Continental, with journalist Sebastián Srur allegedly passing along the information. However, the story was first shared two months ago by Maximiliano Grillo of TNT Sports.
But, buttttttt on January 22nd, Cruz Azul president Jaime Ordiales appeared on Radio Colonia’s Cómo te va program, sharing his desire for a one-year loan with a purchase option of $4 million. “If Racing [Club] comes with the conditions that we arranged with Boca, they do have a chance of signing Pol,” he said. “With Pol we talked about the possibility of Racing and we left that door open. He has been waiting for that option along with another from the MLS.”
Who knows, am I right? I certainly don’t.
(OaM Oakland bureau chief Juan Mesa contributed to this story)
Here’s another treat for you, loyal reader.
According to Roger Gonzalez of CBS, the New York Red Bulls were interested in Federico Cartabia. Expansion club Austin FC “reached out to him several times.” The writer continues to hear transfer rumors involving the Argentine winger.
Cartabia is currently with UAE club Shabab Al-Ahli, on loan from Deportivo La Coruña. Described by Gonzalez as like “Carles Gil but much better,” the 27-year-old Rosario native has spent most of his career in Europe, largely on loan. He signed what was described as a five-year deal in January of 2017, with Transfermarkt listing his contract expiration as June of 2022.
The biggest sensation in American soccer is Matthew Hoppe. The Schalke forward lit up Bundesliga opponents with four goals in his last two games. Before leaving for Europe, he played at the Barça Residency Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona, which is the former home of Red Bulls academy director Sean McCafferty.
Hoppe praised his former coach, noting his key role in the development process. “Before coming to Barca, I played mostly midfield,” the now-striker told Soccer Today in 2019. “[Playing up top] was new to me and required a lot of learning and patience by Sean McCafferty, but he believed in me and stuck with me. I want to thank him now and always for everything he did for me.”
The Barça Residency Academy produced quite a few talented prospects, most notably first-team midfielder Caden Clark and reserve striker Jake LaCava. A for-profit development program has slightly different aims and a more unique recruitment base than an MLS youth set-up, but the long-term results should yield a similar result. Ownership is reportedly giving McCafferty resources to work his magic with the Red Bulls, as the academy manager is considered the foundation of the House of Football.
Red Bulls midfielder Cristian Cásseres Jr. appeared on episode 12 of the SOLOVENEX podcast. After “a special 2020,” the breakout Venezuelan international discussed life, the national team, and the Red Bulls. Due to the ongoing pandemic, he stayed in the United States during the winter, electing to not travel home to visit Venezuela.
Described as a versatile box-to-box player, he explains that the Red Bulls helped him to improve fitness and become a more complete midfielder. While an eventual move to Europe remains a distant goal, Cásseres is focused on improving and doing everything possible to win the elusive MLS Cup, not wanting to leave the club until he does. However, if a European team does come a-calling, the 20-year-old hopes it is in Serie A, particularly Milan.
These are exciting times for Cásseres, particularly with the hiring of a manager that places a priority on central midfielders.
While watching my favorite television channel, Al-Nahar TV, I noticed that a familiar well-dressed player was the guest on a show. It was Red Bulls center back Amro Tarek talking with anchor and former Tottenham striker Ahmed Hossam Mido. The two discussed Egyptian soccer, both at the club and national team level.
A goal of Tarek’s is to return to the national time, something that he would consider a great honor. He’s earned two caps with Al-Firaeina (The Pharaohs). The most recent was in October of 2018, a 4-1 win over Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) in the African Cup of Nations qualifying. In February of 2020, the Los Angeles native shared his belief that the current national team manager “will [not] give a chance to an MLS player” because “Egyptians don’t know the league, don’t watch the games… and don’t take MLS seriously.”
Tarek also believes that his “personal relationship with a coach makes a big difference” in his play. As for whether he would choose between Egyptian rivals Al-Ahly and Zamalek, the 28-year-old demurred, stating both would be an honor and he would choose the club most suited to his playing style.
There is no word on how Tarek is coping with the departure of his favorite teammate, Marc Rzatkowski.
Reserve team star Omar Sowe received the full profile treatment from Club Eleven Mag. He shared stories about growing up in The Gambia and his first few years in the United States, a country to which he “wasn’t excited at all” to move. Adjusting to his new country was difficult, but soccer provided a way for him to make friends.
Despite the initial negative feelings, Sowe loves his New Jersey hometown. “My family and I, we’re in Harrison, and we’re set pretty much,” he told writer Peter Bonilla. “You know, like people know who we are, and people are very respectful and caring toward my family. So, I love Harrison because of the people.”
Sowe scored seven goals last season with Red Bulls II. Despite being “disappointed” he’s not on a Homegrown contract, the 20-year-old is excited about the 2021 season. Perhaps a New York club in transition under new management will give the young attacker a chance.
Former academy player Chris Gloster doesn’t appear to be coming to New York. According to Jeff Carlisle of ESPN, the left back “has drawn interest from Newcastle United.” Joining the Premier League club would require the acquisition of a work permit, which seems like a pretty steep climb at the moment.
Those hoping for a return stateside might be waiting a long time. “I would like to [return to Major League Soccer], but preferably when I am close to retirement as a football player,” Gloster told Dutch outlet ED in August. “My goal has always been to succeed in Europe and now I get the chance at a big club.”
At the time, he was referring to PSV Eindhoven. Now, presumably, the “big club” would be Newcastle. Tomorrow, who knows?
Do you want to know what Samuel Tetteh is doing?
The Salzburg attacker spent a few months on loan with New York then returned to Austria. His next destination is SKN St. Pölten on a deal that lasts until the end of the season. The 24-year-old Ghanaian is under contract with Red Bull through June of 2022.
St. Pölten is currently in seventh place in the Austrian Bundesliga with 15 points from 12 matches. According to sporting director George Zelhofer, the club has “found a player who, with his technique and speed, brings the attributes [they] were looking for.” Tetteh will wear number 99, surely the amount of goals he will score this season.
What do your favorite players do in their time away from soccer? Midfielder Dru Yearwood broadcasts games of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare on popular streaming platform Twitch. Is the 20-year-old English player the next eSports star? I have no idea because my very real girlfriend who exists doesn’t let me play or watch video games.
Former New York and current Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch appeared on the self-evidently named The Football Pod. He played the hits, discussing his background, Major League Soccer, and everything about Red Bull. The American indicated he enjoys being away from the league’s eccentricities and relishes resetting tactics during international breaks.
He even shared the story of the first time he met Ralf Rangnick. “The first time I met him was an interview with him and Gerard Houllier,” said Marsch. “They came to interview me for the New York Red Bulls job. Most of the discussion started with Gerard, and him and I talking about football. And I talked about counter-pressing. I talked about pressing. I talked about manipulating space with how you move your team with and without the ball. And, quite honestly, I never heard the name Ralf Rangnick and I never knew anything about his football.”
When Rangnick did speak, their first conversation was a heated debate on the nature of the game, which left Marsch feeling that he would not get the position. However, he did and the rest is history. This all goes to show that job seekers should attempt to make every interview as contentious as possible.
It was a real Chutes and Ladders of a day for Kemar Lawrence in Belgium.
After starting his third straight match, the Anderlecht left back was named captain for Anderlecht’s fixture against KAS Eupen. Things went pear-shaped in the 37th minute, when the Jamaican international made a poorly timed tackle on Emmanuel Agbadou. Originally a yellow card, that dastardly villain VAR saw the caution harshly upgraded to a red.
Manager Vincent Kompany defended his player, believing that “there is a difference between going to a ball with intensity and making a foul,” with Lawrence “tackling in front of the [opponent].” The player was offered a reduced sanction of a one-match suspension and a 1,500 euro fine. Personally, I (jokingly and in parody) believe the referee should be suspended, fired, and possibly marooned on an island, but I’m sure there are other, incorrect opinions.
Watch for yourself and decide:
Regardless of a single match’s outcome, Lawrence’s ascension is incredible. He left the Red Bulls only to suffer great personal tragedy while in Anderlecht, resulting in an extended personal leave. Upon returning, not only has the 28-year-old cut in line ahead of formerly entrenched fullback Bohdan Mykhaylichenko, but the manager saw enough to name him captain.
Here’s a story that was submitted to the Round-Up by our friend Austin of Christ Church.
After a very long wait, the career of Rafael Díaz has exploded. The former Red Bulls reserve and senior team goalkeeper seized the number one job with Sacramento Republic, playing 11 matches in the COVID-shortened USL season. According to Indomitable City Soccer, he “never had a bad game in 2020, and several times, he made the big plays to keep [his club] in games they would have otherwise drawn or lost.”
On the heels of his fantastic season, Díaz reportedly earned a call-up to the Dominican Republic national team. Los Quisqueyanos take on Puerto Rico and Serbia this month. The 29-year-old goalkeeper did not appear in the first match, but there is the fixture against Орлови (The Eagles) in the future.
Diaz played with the Red Bulls reserve team from 2015 through 2017. He earned a MLS contract in 2017 but spent most of that season in the USL. In 2018, the St. John’s grad joined Sacramento Republic, apparently finding the perfect situation as the club inches closer to its uniquely American promotion up the pyramid.
Here’s another story that was submitted to the Round-Up by our friend Austin of Christ Church.
Former Red Bull Rece Buckmaster answered 11 questions from his new club, Indy Eleven. Did you know that he watches The Dark Knight at least once per week? As a true man of culture, the Indiana native is also a big fan of Cheez-It crackers.
Distressingly, nobody with the Red Bulls used his nickname. “My nickname is Rico,” Buckmaster told the club’s official website. “I was never called that in New York. I was called that at Indiana University my four years there.”
I can think of a nickname for which Buckmaster will be forever remembered by Red Bulls fans. It rhymes with “Schmockschmown.”
The Middletown Soccer Club announced the hiring of Mike Petke as a player development and operations consultant. The former Red Bulls player and manager will “share his knowledge and vast experience” with the youth organization “while building a culture.” The 44-year-old was most recently in charge of Real Salt Lake. His contract with the Utah side was terminated on August 11th, 2019.
“Is that it?”
Yup! Let’s move to the next story.
Former reserve player Junior Flemmings signed with Birmingham Legion FC of the USL Championship. The Jamaican attacker signed a deal for 2020 with a team option for another year. Following a controversial incident last season in which Flemmings made alleged homophobic remarks during a match against San Diego Loyal, the Birmingham front office spoke with San Diego player Collin Martin (the target of the slur) and manager Landon Donovan before making the move.
Flemmings played with Red Bulls II in 2016 and 2017, a member of the USL Cup winning team. He scored 17 goals in two seasons with the club. Following his release from Phoenix Rising, the Jamaican international was rumored to be “in negotiations with other clubs.” In November, Turkish media linked the 25-year-old to Antalyaspor and second-division club Tuzlaspor.
What time is it? If you’re reading this, probably around 1:00 pm on a Saturday...but also BOUNA TIME!
Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul appeared on 13 TV to praise current Senegalese goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. “[He] is the only black African goalkeeper in England,” said the former national team player. “Mendy still put Kepa on the bench.”
Coundoul played for the Red Bulls from 2009 through 2011. Following his time with the club, he spent time with Vaasan Palloseura, Enosis Neon Paralimni, Ethnikos Achna, and Platinum Stars. After retirement in 2016, the graduate of Manhattan’s Martin Luther King High School has coached at a variety of clubs and schools, including his alma mater. Lucky young goalkeepers can also join his Bouna Time Goalkeeper academy, learning from someone who forged a truly unique playing career.
Remember all the way back when we talked about Schalke near the top of the Round-Up? Just because they have a good American striker doesn’t mean they’re doing well. In fact, the club is doing quite poorly, a fact that makes Frank Rost feel a lot of feelings. He shared his thoughts in an interview with Sport1.
“At Schalke, regardless of person, you always only treat symptoms, and you never really go into fundamental matters,” diagnosed Dr. Rost. “In the past there was a huge machine with well-paid jobs for all kinds of people… you have to discuss more about how you can support people and demand that they internalize what it means to play football at Schalke.”
Rost played with Die Königsblauen from 2002 through 2007, finishing runner-up in the Bundesliga in 2005. The full interview is worth a read to see what a former player thinks of the situation at the Veltins-Arena. He believes that the club has “done everything in the past few years not to be constant.”
Here’s a joke that was submitted by Miriam of Wyckoff.
“I disagree. Schalke seems incredibly consistent… consistently terrible.”
Thank you, Miriam. Now please run, hide before Frank finds you.
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