In a move that clears up what had become a mild question mark in recent weeks as the deadline of his initial deal approached at the end of the month, New York Red Bulls announced on Thursday that they had extended the loan of striker Fábio Gomes Netto for the remainder of 2021.
Even while having yet to score a goal in Major League Soccer, Fábio has impressed in the opening weeks of the season. The 6’4” Brazilian with a bright smile has cut perhaps the most distinctive figure of any of New York’s winter signings and has been crucial to passages of success for the team in the early weeks. His aerial play and defense-stretching runs from deep have been crucial to getting Gerhard Struber’s team a foothold in the final third, and his four assists so far led the league earlier in the season.
While many New York fans understandably expected and hoped that Fábio’s contract with the club would be made permanent rather than merely renewed, this approach makes sense both from an angle of hedging their bet on the target man as well as the angle of keeping him long-term.
The Red Bulls still have an option to sign him permanently from now-third division Brazilian side Oeste FC, but the fee is unknown. Activating it midseason could have cost the Red Bulls crucial salary cap space through expenditures on his transfer fee and possibly a salary raise. As the team continues to seek flexibility and cap space as seen from the shipping out of Brian White last week, avoiding unnecessary spends is crucial - especially when Fabio’s permanent transfer option can still be exercised after the season when other roster space has been created. While there’s always the potential for a loan to go sour and see a club discard its borrowed asset, Fábio’s function in the team’s formation as well as sporting chief Kevin Thelwell’s comments about his ability to fit into the locker room as well speak to a player with a long-term future in New York.
The expectation now is that Fábio will partner Patryk Klimala, not make way for him as some faithless writers suspected when the Orlando lineup card was announced. With Klimala managing to impact his starting lineup debut against Orlando through assisting up a goal rather than finishing it, it seems like Fábio is rubbing off on everybody in Harrison these days. Red Bulls fans will hope that the duo’s ability to create for others eventually begins to pay dividends for their respective goal columns.