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Red Bulls Expert Guide: March 27, 2021

A South African college star ends up on New York’s radar, the respective Kaku and Gonzalo Verón transfer dramas drag on, Vincent Bezecourt arrives in Armenia and more in this week’s links round-up

MLS: Eastern Conference Knockout Round-New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire
Former Red Bulls winger Gonzalo Veron has surely been jealous of Kaku’s legal drama stealing his thunder
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Red Bulls Expert Guide presented by Once a Metro.

Like a chestburster popping out of John Hurt, the Expert Guide once again is here to provide you with everything you probably don’t need to know. Will this weekly column eventually be surpassed by the gaudier and more exciting sequel, perhaps some sort of Expert Guides? That’s an Alien/Aliens reference.

Here’s this week’s top story.

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According to the South African press, the Red Bulls are interested in a player from the Rainbow Nation by way of college soccer.

Soccer Laduma – “the biggest soccer publication in Africa” – reports “former Kaizer Chiefs starlet Katlego ‘Tsiki’ Ntsabeleng has made it onto the radar” of New York. The 23-year-old attacker is currently with Oregon State University after originally matriculating to Coastal Carolina University. He has made eight appearances and started twice, while contributing one goal and two assists this season. Assistant coach and countryman Bradley Carnell is said to be “impressed” with the player.

“Katlego is currently playing in [the] USA and he has managed to garner the interest of Red Bull New York over there, which is the same team Thierry Henry played for,” his agent Gerald Baloyi told Soccer Laduma. “There are some teams over here in the PSL that are interested in bringing Ntsiki back to South Africa. He is a quality player and he showed it when he played for the Chiefs.”

His youth career included stops at Stars of Africa and the University of Johannesburg team, although his time at the latter institution did not overlap with Carnell’s tenure. Ntsabeleng was awarded the 2018 Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year and twice named to the All-Conference team. He spent the summer of 2019 with Reading United AC in USL League Two, a teammate of recent SuperDraft selection Lamine Conte and reserve team signing Jeremy Rafanello.

How and when the current college player would join the Red Bulls goes unanswered. A brief perusal of game film reveals a creative, dynamic striker and winger, possessing the requisite speed, willingness to take on defenders off the dribble, and nose for goal. Perhaps this is a player that will surface in the summer, but the rumor mill remains coy.

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Last weekend, Al-Taawoun defeated Al-Shabab in Saudi Pro League action with a 3-1 victory. Some guy named Kaku scored the first goal in the 29th minute. The Argentine-Paraguayan trailed behind the play, received a pass from target striker Léandre Tawamba, and coolly placed his shot into the bottom corner.

The Wolves’ next match is on Sunday, April 4th against Al-Fateh in the semifinals of the King Cup of Champions. There is… no update on his contract status with the Red Bulls. So… did you hear about how Monterrey wanted to sign Kaku, but there was an issue with the foreign player limit? Okay, let’s move on.

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Third-place AGF Aarhus took on first-place Brøndby in hot, sexy Danish Superliga action. Die hviie (The Whites) drew with the table toppers, 1-1. Despite the club being “plagued by injuries and quarantines,” striker Mathias Jørgensen neither appeared in the starting lineup nor was on the bench, but he did make the match day roster.

AGF returns to action with a match against FC Nordsjælland on Sunday, April 4th. The Superliga now splits into two parts, the Championship Round and the Relegation Round. Jørgensen’s team is in the top half, aiming to qualify for the Champions League or Europa Conference League. He has made one appearance for 22 minutes while on loan.

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The lawsuit saga of Gonzalo Verón continues, as does my ongoing two-front battle to decipher legal terms and the Spanish language.

The former Designated Player is reportedly suing his former club, Club Atlético Independiente, for $6 million, seeking “what was left of the contract, the contractual debt, and the double compensation.” Verón claims that after paying his $750,000 release clause out of pocket to the Red Bulls, the Argentine outfit did not provide promised compensation. He departed last year and is currently with Sol de América of the Paraguayan Primera División.

The drama has been ramping up in Labor Court No. 2 of Avellaneda. The Argentine club was reportedly declared “in absentia for not presenting their defense on time,” and will reportedly “have to face the claim” or reach a settlement. His attorney, Doctor Cristian Lanaro, appeared on Rojos de Pasión on FM 89.3 to discuss what some have termed “the biggest mess in the recent history of Independiente.” According to Orgullo Rojo, “the balance is totally tilted on the side of Gonzalo Verón (and against Independiente).”

Say what you will about the former Red Bull, but he always keeps things interesting.

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Reserve team midfielder Kyle Zajec spoke with Georgetown University newspaper The Hoya about his professional career and future goals. The 23-year-old former academy player is entering his third season as a professional after a devastating injury in 2020. During the rehabilitation period, the international economics major developed his professional skills and knowledge base.

“[The injury] pushed me to think about what I want to do after soccer and really tighten that area of my life because [although] this wasn’t a career-ending injury, it could have been,” Zajec told writer Caden Koontz. “I took a little bit of portfolio and asset management optimization, and my recent courses have been centered [on] Python with some finance and algorithmic trading… It’s a lot of waiting, and you kind of want [rehabilitation] to go faster and faster, but with a bone, you just have to wait for it to heal and solidify around the rod.”

The Westport, Connecticut native still hopes to “progress through the organization,” eventually reaching the first team. Zajec has made 27 total appearances for New York Red Bulls II, three coming as an amateur in 2015. As captain, he will be tasked with leading a significantly younger squad than in past years as the club continues to transform into a more streamlined development pathway.

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The Designated Players Podcast has christened 2021 “The Year of Omir,” claiming that attacker Omir Fernandez will take a massive jump in quality this season. The show broke down the entire Red Bulls roster, from players on loan to hopes for management and tactics. “I like this [transfer] window,” said host Andrew Barnikel. “For the first time in a long time, I’m looking at a Red Bull window and saying, ‘This is good.’ This was a good window for the New York Red Bulls…. We’re using the Red Bull link for the first time in a while at the beginning of the season… using our scouting networks in Brazil.”

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Another New York Red Bulls podcast made its debut this week. Say hello to RBNY UK, a show hosted by supporters from the United Kingdom. What sort of incisive insight and scintillating wit do they bring to the American game? Listen and find out.

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The champ is here (Da-dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun).

Šaćir Hot is returning as the manager of FC Motown for the 2021 National Premier Soccer League season. The former Homegrown first took over the Celtics in October of 2016. Under his leadership, the club has won, well, a lot of things. The list is certainly too long for me to research and catalogue, so perhaps they should throw a list of accolades on the official website.

Congratulations, Šaćir. Perhaps it’s time for another interview as a check-in. One of writers at this site should get on that… but not me.

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Contrary to recent press reports, Ralf Rangnick will NOT be taking over Schalke. In a move that “surprised” the club’s board, he rejected interest from the Bundesliga cellar dwellers. Perhaps the second division wasn’t as appealing as potentially leading the German national team.

“Schalke is very close to my heart,” said Rangnick. “The overwhelmingly positive reactions from members of the Konigsblauen community have influenced me and confirmed my feelings for this very special club. I would have loved to have been involved in helping Schalke on its difficult road back to its former strength. Unfortunately, due to the numerous uncertainties within the club at the moment, I do not see myself being able to take on sporting responsibility at S04 at the moment. My wish for all members and supporters of the club is that they will successfully join forces to unify Schalke on and off the pitch and lead it back to the top.”

I’m sorry, Schalke. There are other fish in the sea. Just focus on self-improvement because it will happen when you least expect it and other banal platitudes people tell me so I stop talking to them.

In other news, Rangnick had a long interview with Bundesliga.com about all things soccer and most importantly Tyler Adams. “Take the example of Tyler Adams,” he said in a long article worthy of your full consumption. “Tyler appeared on my radar at 16 or 17 when he was in the youth system at NY Red Bulls. He was someone like Joshua Kimmich, who already had the exceptional mentality to want to be the best version of Tyler Adams the football that he could be. He wouldn’t be dissuaded of that, it was in his blood, and it was clear to us that he would become a leading player in the MLS… It was also clear to us that the next step for him was to go to Leipzig and that he didn’t need an intermediate step on the way. That has been proven to be correct, but now as before he’s an exception.”

As for Adams, what stood out is his will to win at all times and desire to improve. Rangnick projects his long-term future as a central midfielder, although he “can [play fullback] well.” Just read the whole interview. What else are you doing with your time?

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Did the MetroStars miss out on one of the world’s best goalkeepers?

Yes… no… kind of… probably not.

In a recent interview, former Italian national team goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca recounted the 1994 World Cup Final in Pasadena. The former Sampdoria, Inter, and Bologna man made an error during the match, but he’s grateful his mistake was not responsible for the eventual penalty shootout loss to Brazil. What would have happened in that alternate timeline?

“I thanked the Lord because if we had lost for my mistake in the final when I missed the ball, I would have stayed in the United States,” Pagliuca said during a webinar. “Maybe I would have gone to play with the MetroStars from New York… other than going to Inter where I signed. The Lord gave me a hand: if we had lost the World Cup because of my mistake, it would have marked my career.”

It’s a real sliding doors moment. Could the MetroStars have won MLS Cup if this legendary Italian goalkeeper graced Giants Stadium with his talent? Perhaps the club would have fallen short on the big stage, as the Azzurri did at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.

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RAFA SAYS TA-TA TO ALCALÁ!

Yes, it’s true. Rafael Márquez is no longer the Cadet A manager at Tercera División side Real Sociedad Deportiva Alcalá. After half of a year in charge, he compiled a record of three wins, four losses, and three draws. As one expects for an unemployed, lightly experienced academy coach with a checkered recent legal history, his name is now being connected with Barcelona.

You know the old expression: “When you have a chance to hire someone with a sub-.500 record managing 15-year-olds to the world’s most prominent football job, you have to take it.”

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Former Red Bull Danleigh Borman appeared on The Footie Express show with his father, Dot, a legend in the South African football scene. The two discussed how the sport has changed over time, both domestically and internationally. The 36-year-old shared the story of the time Thierry Henry bought him the car of his choosing, a “basic black-and-white Mini Cooper.”

The whole interview is worth consuming, so give it a watch.

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Welcome to Armenia, Vincent Bezecourt!

The 27-year-old former Red Bulls midfielder signed with Armenian Premier League club Alashkert. The three-time league champions are based in the capital city of Yerevan and currently in second place, two points behind FC Ararat. Bezecourt made his debut in a recent match against Shirak Gyumri, playing 62 minutes in a scoreless draw.

“I’m very glad to transfer to FC Alashkert,” he said after signing. “This is a new and extremely important challenge for me. I wanted to continue my career in the European championship. We have a great team. I’m certain that we’ll be able to meet our objectives.”

Bezecourt joined Red Bulls II in 2016. He was promoted to the first team in August of 2017. The native of Aire-sur-l’Adour, France made 20 total appearances across three seasons.

Here’s a joke that was submitted by Ethel of Washington.

Hopefully Bezecourt doesn’t run into any pirates in ARRRRRRRRRRRmenia.

Thank you, Ethel. The country is actually landlocked. Perhaps there are a few swashbucklers prowling Lake Sevan, although I doubt it.

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