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Red Bulls close to move for Celtic attacker Cameron Harper

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United States youth national team forward with Scottish parents had been speculated as a transfer target in recent weeks

Celtic v Hibernian - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images

Reports out of Scotland have put New York Red Bulls close to a permanent and immediate transfer move for forward Cameron Harper from Celtic FC of the Scottish Premiership.

Following a report last month by The Athletic that Harper was in talks with New York as the end of his reserve contract with Celtic approaches, the Glasgow Times reported on Wednesday that the talks had progressed to the final stages and that the Red Bulls have beaten other MLS clubs to Harper’s signature. The deal would involve a permanent transfer rather than awaiting Harper’s free agency in the summer and while the Times report claimed a transfer fee was agreed, Once A Metro sources have indicated that discussions over a final fee remain the last hurdle to the deal’s completion.

Harper has recently become a fringe member of the first team at Parkhead, making his league debut in a match against Hibernian last month. Harper had joined Celtic in fall of 2018 after scholarship offers from NCAA programs including UCLA. Raised in California by Scottish parents, Harper was able to bypass UK work permit restrictions that typically block Americans from entry-level roles at British clubs. After progressing well in the reserves at the storied Glasgow club Harper earned attention from both the Scottish and American national team programs, settling for now with the US with whom he earned his first under-20 cap last year.

Celtic and the Scottish league are certainly not what they used to be in global football’s hierarchy, with Harper himself stating his reserve opposition is an odd mix of academy teenagers and part-time adult pros. But graduating from the reserves at a busy club constantly cycling in new transfers is no easy feat. Harper’s highlight reels show a daring wide player comfortable using his speed to go past players both on the side of the box to deliver a cross or deep in the midfield to run at goal. While the current Red Bulls attacking midfield corps includes clever passers like Caden Clark and Florian Valot and predatory scorers like Daniel Royer and Omir Fernandez, a direct dribbler like Harper could add a new dimension to the New York attack.

However questions linger about whether room exists for a wide forward player in the diamond tactical system traditionally preferred by new Red Bulls manager Gerhard Struber. Struber’s teams have typically relied on fullbacks and the inside-out movement of central strikers rather than traditional wingers to provide width. Perhaps Struber plans on different formational looks in New York, but more likely is the conversion of the speedy Harper into one of the hard-pressing spearheads at the top of Struber’s attack.

The move would additionally merge two of the threads that have defined the recruitment process for the Red Bulls under second-year sporting chief Kevin Thelwell: the signing of recently-revered talent crowded out of the first team picture at cash-flush British clubs (such as Brentford depth chart casualty Dru Yearwood and Crystal Palace exile Mandela Egbo) as well as American youth internationals (like Caden Clark and Luca Lewis) seeking their professional breakthroughs. As New York moves forward with more ties to the Red Bull Global structure than it’s ever had, the club is nonetheless developing its own identity in terms of what types of personnel it brings in with that structure.