The 24-year-old Brazilian was one of the pillars in solidifying a defense that allowed Gerhard Struber’s team to push into the playoffs after a difficult summer. Coronel is a serious candidate for the team’s MVP as he closed the season with 13 shutouts and an average goals against per game of 0.97. The numbers are very encouraging for a goalkeeper who just completed his first full season as a starter.
“It is the first time that I start a season and I end it playing,” said Coronel over the phone ahead of last week’s playoff elimination in Philadelphia. “For me it is a very big achievement, personally. I am very grateful to Red Bull for giving me the opportunity to play.”
Coronel’s time as a starting goalkeeper comes after almost a decade within the Red Bull soccer world. The direction of Jyri Nieminen, New York Red Bulls goalkeeping coach, has been important for the Brazilian’s growth as the season progressed.
“Jyri is a very smart coach,” Coronel said of the Finn. “He works a lot on the game situations; the blocking when the goalkeeper comes out to defend one versus one as happened in the (Decision Day game) against Nashville in a situation that I had to come out. We work very well, we understand each other very well.”
Coronel is staking himself as a potential world-class talent, but his path into the professional game was somewhat by chance. He was born in Corumbá, on the border with Bolivia, but his family moved to Porto Murtinho, a city on the border with Paraguay in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, when he was a baby. He joined the academy of the Paraná Clube when he was 12 and stayed there for a couple years. From there he would make the leap to Red Bull Brasil, which at that time was still a new club in the state of Sao Paulo.
“My coach in Paraná went to work with Red Bull and asked me if I wanted to go with them,” Coronel said. “I didn’t know much about the club, but I accepted. The manager’s name is Marcelo and he still works with Red Bull.”
After a couple of years, Coronel crossed the ocean in 2015 to join the Red Bull Salzburg environment still without ever having played as a professional.
“I left Brazil with another goalkeeper to do some try-outs,” said Coronel . “I knew that only one of us would stay, and I worked hard to earn my place. In the end I passed the try-outs and stayed in Austria.”
On Austrian soil, Coronel continued his development with FC Liefering, Salzburg’s second team. There he would work with a recent coaching school graduate named Gerhard Struber and play 68 games. The Brazilian was then promoted to the Salzburg first team, but had few opportunities in his first year. In 2019 he was loaned to the Philadelphia Union for six months, in a fortuitous early experience with MLS. Upon his return to Salzburg, he played some rotation games, including in the Champions League, but he would not have continuity in the team then-being managed by Jesse Marsch.
Struber’s arrival in New York last winter and a number of other factors inside Salzburg opened the doors for Coronel to return to MLS and join another the third Red Bull team of his career. This trajectory has allowed the Brazilian to define the role of the goalkeeper in the Red Bull system.
“A Red Bull goalkeeper has to be an aggressive goalie, with the courage to play behind defense,” says Coronel. “The goalie must help the team with lobbed balls in the box, read the game well to anticipate, and play with both legs, which is something very important to play for Red Bull.”
His manager and patron Struber said after the loss in Philadelphia that he “fought” for Coronel’s signing on loan this past offseason and implied he’s prepared to do the same for his permanent presence, while club executive Kevin Thelwell replied “of course” when asked about the team’s interest in retaining Coronel. Before the playoff game against Philadelphia Union, Coronel assured he does not know what Salzburg’s plans for him will be after his loan expires. However, the Brazilian does not hide that he would like to remain in New York.
“I don’t control that much because there is Salzburg, I don’t know what they’re talking about right now,” says Coronel. “I will talk to my agent about my future later. The possibility of staying here is great and I would be very happy if I stay in New York.”