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Report: New York Red Bulls close to move for Ugandan youth international Steven Sserwadda

21-year-old midfielder Bright Anukani also linked in move with Ibrahim Sekagya’s fingerprints all over

MLS: U.S. Open-New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 MLS season may have started, but the transfer grind never stops.

According to Football256, the New York Red Bulls are in negotiations with Kampala Capital City Authority FC to sign attacking midfielder Steven Sserwadda. His contract expires in August and a deal could be reached in a few days. Writer Clive Kyazze confirms that “negotiations are in advanced stages” with the 18-year-old youth international.

Football256 reports that the Red Bulls scouted him at the recent Africa Cup of Nations and were “impressed with his creative prowess.” Sserwadda put in a star performance in Mauritania, leading Uganda to a second-place finish. He scored two goals in the group stage and featured heavily in the knockout rounds, before losing to Ghana in the final.

Sserwadda is a part of the Binary Sports Group agency, whose client Mustafa Kizza recently signed with the Montreal Impact. Red Bulls assistant coach and Ugandan soccer legend Ibrahim Sekagya played a key role in the latter’s move, serving as a reference and providing a glowing review of his countryman’s talent. His influence on this potential transfer is unknown, but it would be reasonable to assume some measure of involvement. Indeed, the one outlet that has loosely linked Sekagya to the deal also cited 21-year-old midfielder Bright Anukani as another player being scouted by the Red Bulls.

Sserwadda was promoted to the first team at KCCA in January of 2018 at the age of 16 after several years in the academy. Despite “struggling for playing time in the senior team” due to “juggling school and soccer,” Sserwadda has been highly decorated so far in his career, playing at one of his country’s premier clubs. With KCCA, he’s won the Uganda Premier League, Uganda Cup, and CECAFA Clubs Cup. For the Hippos of the Uganda youth national team, his goal helped clinch the CECAFA U-20 title, helping the country quality for the recent U-20 African Cup of Nations.

The Red Bulls are always on the hunt for young talent, with the latest obsession being tempo-pushing central midfielders. On paper and from brief viewing of his highlight videos, Sserwadda may be the perfect fit for the gegenpress. FootyScout describes him as a “dynamic, vertical, daring, and aggressive midfielder with the ball at his feet.” He is best suited to a system in which “he can break free,” shuttling up and down the field. Both fast and versatile, the 18-year-old can be molded into a variety of positions.

Gerhard Struber’s gegenpress creates an opening for a shoot-first attacking midfielder, often finding himself with the ball at the top of the box following a delayed run into the final third. While Sserwadda appears to be a talented young player who could fill this role, his relatively young age and the club’s current logjam of international players indicates his assignment would be to the USL Championship reserve team. With the recent addition of Colombian youth international Juan Camilo Castillo, the Red Bulls are quietly attempting to construct a conveyor belt of developing international talent, loosely imitating the established program at Salzburg.