Welcome to the Red Bulls Round-Up presented by Once a Metro.
I was checking the viewing statistics on recent Round-Up posts and was delighted to learn that the audience is from all around the world. There are readers from far off distant places like Westchester County. Can you believe it? People in the distant land of Bronxville are engaging with Red Bulls news, curated by yours truly. I can hardly wait for next Thanksgiving when everyone is sharing their personal successes, so for once I can win. Move over, lawyers and doctors in the family. I’m a big, bright, shining star.
Here’s this week’s top story.
Mr. Manager Gerhard Struber spoke with Austrian outlet Kleine Zeitung, sharing some insight into the next Red Bulls season. He reveals that the New York offer was timely because he’s “ambitious and those responsible for Barnsley wanted to go more restrictive.” His familiarity with ownership made the decision easy as he knows “how high the line is and what can be achieved with the resources.”
Struber also shared his impression of American tactics. “This game (New York versus Columbus) showed me how strong the South American influence is in Major League Soccer,” said the 43-year-old. “Technically, the league can safely be put above Austria. But tactically we have a lot of leeway. In Austria, the tactical level is extremely high.”
He also reveals that the club will have the traditional training camp in Florida and a “preparation tournament” in Arizona, presumably the Visit Tucson Sun Cup in which the Red Bulls have participated seven times. Fellow Austrian Daniel Royer will remain in the team’s plans, with Struber describing the attacker as “an important player.” However, the roster requires an upgrade “to improve [its] quality” in order “to achieve ambitious goals.”
With a handful of international roster and Designated Player slots open, there is sure to be some movement in the coming months.
Last year was a challenge for many people, including goalkeeper David Jensen. What should have been a “dream move” from the Netherlands to the United States became difficult due to the global pandemic. The 28-year-old was separated from his family who were an ocean away in Denmark.
“It was so surreal because we have never tried this before,” he told Ekstra Bladet. “No one has tried it. So we were told by the club that going out the door or going down and shopping, you just have to wait a few days… Had we known that corona would come, we would not have left.”
While he deemed that the United States was “unsafe,” his family is looking forward to the future. Jensen’s wife gave birth to the couple’s second daughter in May, after which they flew home to Denmark. Presumably, the next season should be smoother, with an opportunity to regain the starting role. His contract reportedly runs through December of 2022, which is quite the commitment from the Red Bulls.
The Danish media is aflutter with buzz for Aarhus loan signing Mathias Jørgensen. A one-time hot prospect, he’s returned to his home country a little older and wiser. The 20-year-old striker was profiled by local newspaper Århus Stiftstidende, providing quite the background on his move and plans for the future.
“Firstly, I did not get the playing time I had hoped for or felt entitled to over there,” Jørgensen said in conversation with Kim Robin Graahede (through the magic of Google Translate). “It has been an annoyance, but I myself feel that I have always kept my nose in the track, and worked hard for it. So it’s about playing time. And then came the corona. It did not make things much better… I was just sitting alone in my apartment when I was not playing football, because I could not just move around, so when summer came, I started to think that I also needed a life off the field, if I was to be able to perform too, football-wise.”
Jørgensen claims he “felt completely isolated,” away from his girlfriend and unable to travel home. However, the rough experience allowed him to mature and focused him on future success. He also feels like the Red Bulls’ style of play was not conducive to his personal preference.
“It’s a different way of playing football,” said the Hundested native. “It’s a lot forward over the steppes, back and forth football, and it’s insanely physical. It’s wild how many hours they spend on being in the strength room and training. And I sometimes thought that maybe they spent a little too much time on it instead of the tactical. It has made me clearly stronger physically compared to when I left OB, but there are also things I have not developed much on, because I never felt really comfortable on the field in relation to the way they play football.”
Now he looks forward to the upcoming six months with AGF and would “not be dismissive” of his loan being made permanent. Unfortunately, Jørgensen was sidelined with a positive COVID-19 but recently began training with his new club. The first session was “a bit tiring” but everyone had “a good time together.”
AGF’s season resumes on February 2nd with a match against Vejle BK. De hviie (the Whites) are currently in third place, three points behind Midtjylland and Brøndby. Check your cable packages, but I’m assuming you’ll be able to watch on ESPN+.
Bernd Eibler is one of the brightest young stars in the Austrian coaching scene. Naturally, his move to MLS to become an assistant coach with New York is cause for interest. The 26-year-old former video analyst was profiled by national public broadcaster Österreichischer Rundfunk, whose Burgenland Today television program dedicated two-and-a-half minutes to the move.
The Burgenland native signed a three-year contract and believes New York “is a good step for [him] as a coach,” a decision confirmed by his family. While he served as a video analyst at previous employer SV Mattersburg, his role will be slightly different in MLS. Eibler will be responsible for “training conception, game preparation, and tactical approaches for the next opponent.”
The segment closes with a shot of the Statue of Liberty. Ain’t she grand? Enjoy the United States, Mr. Eibler, and remember, we drive on this side of the road.
What’s that? You also drive on the right side in Austria? Forget I mentioned it.
Has the door for a signing been opened? Rumored transfer target Chris Gloster is reportedly on the outs at PSV Eindhoven. According to several stories from the Netherlands, the American youth international is free to leave in January, with the club “willing to help find a solution.”
Gloster spent time with the Red Bulls Academy and made one appearance for the USL reserve team before moving to Europe. In the summer of 2019, he signed a deal with PSV that runs through June of 2022. The 20-year-old left back was training with the first team prior to the season, but has failed to make substantial progress at the club.
Let’s check in on Teemu Tainio in Finland. The former Red Bulls midfielder is set to begin his third season in charge of FC Haka. He reflected on a difficult 2020 in which he managed to help the recently promoted club avoid relegation.
“[The] 2020 season was certainly the weirdest thing I experienced in football,” the 41-year old told the league’s official website. “For our part, the Veikkausliiga started in a difficult way when the results were not what we wanted. However, we started to believe, which was eventually rewarded with [avoiding relegation].”
Haka kicks off the 2021 season on Saturday, February 6th with the Suomen Cup, Finland’s main national competition. The club has won it a second-best 12 times, most recently in 2005. The boys from Valkeakoski open with Group B matches against IFK Mariehamn, FC Honka, and FC Inter. Last year, Tainio led the squad to a semifinal finish, losing, 3-2, to eventual champions HJK Helsinki.
Let’s switch to Australia and say goodnight to the bad guy… mate… bloke?
Western Sydney Wanderers manager Carl Robinson doesn’t care what you think of him. Despite only taking over the club recently, he’s been cast as a villain of Australian soccer after mysteriously walking away from the Newcastle Jets and going on “a signing spree.” The “quality A-League” signings were alleged to be “coaxed out of their contracts,” leading the 44-year-old to be branded “a poacher.”
“I can’t control people’s thoughts and minds,” Robinson told The Sydney Morning Herald. “I can control mine. I’m in a good place, a wonderful club with great facilities. There are highly respected people that have got a desire and a determination to be successful and win. Some people will like that, some won’t. What I’ve got to do is piece it all together so we’re successful in the short, medium, and long-term. I’m here to build a project.”
Robinson insists the situation is not what it seems. He pointed to family issues, bad coaches, and salary cap reduction as reasons why a player might desire a new club and force a move. Good feelings in the hearts and minds of opponents be damned, it would be an issue if a club wasn’t doing everything possible to win.
Western Sydney opened the season with a 1-0 loss to expansion side Macarthur FC.
Bolavip compiled a list of the 15 worst signings in MLS history, and the MetroStars/Red Bulls are heavily represented. Writer Kelvin Loyola selected six players from the club’s past, a cacophony of errors which is more impressive than anything. Wellington Sánchez, Rubén Darío Hernández, Branco, Lothar Matthäus, and Claudio Reyna are included among the infamous, forming quite the rogues’ galleries of failed saviors and disappointing transfer coups.
“That’s only five names.”
Ah, yes, how silly of me. Rafael Márquez is first. Congratulations, Rafa.
Recent reserve team goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley appeared on The Coast Boys Podcast. He discussed his youth career, time with the Red Bulls, and plans for the future. According to him, the team still owns his MLS rights for another year. There is interest in the free agent, but COVID has made the process more difficult than in years past.
Lapsley was drafted by the Red Bulls in the second round of the 2020 SuperDraft. He made 11 appearances in USL and was released at the end of the season. After graduating from UC Davis, the 23-year-old Seattle native was awarded a Fulbright Award, a grant for which “he can re-apply in later years.”
Speaking of former players making moves, Rece Buckmaster found his way home. The Indiana native and Indiana Hoosier signed with USL Championship side Indy Eleven. The 24-year-old is expected to “excel as a defender and in central midfield,” according to head coach Martin Rennie.
Buckmaster was selected by the Red Bulls in the 2019 SuperDraft. He made six appearances before being released in advance of the 2020 season. Last year, he played with Memphis 901 in the USL Championship, making 14 appearances and scoring one goal en route to a mid-table finish.
Former reserve team midfielder Bolu Akinyode is also at a new club. The Seton Hall Pirate transferred to The Miami FC from Birmingham Legion for a “a transfer fee which could rise up to a maximum of $15k.” The 26-year-old Nigerian was a member of the first Red Bulls II side in 2015 and has carved out a solid career in USL.
It’s time to hit that old dusty trail. Carlos Rivas is in search of a new club. Deportivo Cuenca president Juan Padilla informed the media that the Colombian attacker “will not continue with the squad.”
Rivas contributed one goal and one assist in seven appearances. The 26-year-old has reportedly suffered from injury issues, the most recent being a “medial collateral ligament distension.” With the Ecuadorian Serie A allotting a mere six foreign player spots, it appears Cuenca is choosing to move in a different direction.
More details emerged on the breakdown in negotiations between D.C. United and Chris Armas. According to the Washington Post, talks “hit multiple unspecified roadblocks.” However, the issue was not related to salary. More than a week has elapsed since the reports of “multiple” interviews with Toronto FC.
In what should be a daily occurrence, one-time Red Bull and full-time heartthrob Armando Lozano gave a wide-ranging interview on his playing career.
The Spanish center back spoke with writer Alvaro Goncalves, discussing the past, present, and future. According to Armando, he came to MLS because of his time at Barcelona. “Several of the team’s staff” moved stateside with Thierry Henry, and it was hard to turn down the opportunity to live in New York.
“Football there was not tactical, rather it was physical,” said Armando. “It took me a little to adapt. The [Disciplinary Committee] also cost me because small things like a jump with the arm up can be sanctioned later. In fact, it generated suspensions and financial sanctions. I had a great time until a year later, the club’s organization chart changed and I stopped being in their plans… but still, it was the most beautiful experience I had in my life as a footballer.”
Now retired, the 36-year-old recently became a father and is “working with an investment group.” Armando is open to returning to the sport, but the opportunity would have to fit into his current family life. I think it’s only fair that the Red Bulls start the bidding at five million dollars per year and not worry about such pesky details as “jobs” and “What exactly would he do here?”
The Finland national team tenure of Hans Backe was, for lack of a better phrase, one of the most dismal runs of form in the history of European soccer. The legendary Red Bulls manager [Uh?] posted a record of zero wins, nine losses, and two draws from January through December of 2016. One match was a particularly disheartening affair, referred to as the “Reykjavik scandal.”
Hours before a key World Cup qualifying match against Iceland, Roman Eremenko departed the team hotel after receiving a suspension from UEFA. “Of course it was a shock at that moment,” Backe told the Huuhkajat specialty magazine in 2019. “The game was so close, and he was by far our best player. I tried and tried [to get in touch], but he didn’t answer. I am a little sorry for him. It would have been nice to try and talk.”
Finland lost 3-2 after surrendering two goals in extra time, a match Backe is “trying to forget.” After two subsequent defeats to Croatia and the Ukraine, he was relieved of his duties. However, the Swede enjoyed his time in charge, referring to the players as “phenomenal, focused, and hardworking.” The tenure was an opportunity for personal growth because “you always learn and you can learn all your life.”
In addition to his television work and burgeoning horse racing empire, Backe has worked with the UEFA Coach Mentor Programme. The initiative endeavors to “increase the number of club and national teams coached by women” by furthering the progress of “high-level coaches who are showing development potential.” He described his inclusion as “an honour” and hopes to see “his mentee (retired player and recent LSK manager Hege Riise) have success.”
Here’s a joke that was submitted by Thelma of Cedar Grove.
“His first lesson is to shove as many defensive midfielders into your formation as possible.”
Thank you, Thelma. He certainly did have a knack for doing just that.
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