Last year’s part-time number one is leaving for now.
The New York Red Bulls appear set to send goalkeeper David Jensen to Belgian First Division B club K.V.C. Westerlo. According to sources, the deal will be a loan contract. His current MLS contract reportedly runs through December of 2022.
The 29-year-old Dane moved to the Red Bulls in January of 2020 after losing his starting job at FC Utrecht. Jensen was in the lineup on Opening Day but alternated with Ryan Meara throughout the season. His acrobatic save secured a 1-0 win over Atlanta United in the opening match of the MLS is Back Tournament, but that would prove to be the highlight of his tenure. He failed to convince both then-manager Chris Armas and current cheftrainer Gerhard Struber of his abilities, not appearing in the final eight matches of the season.
Off the field, Jensen appeared to struggle to adapt to life in the United States, a situation exacerbated by the global pandemic. Describing the situation as “f***ing hard” and “damn frustrating,” his family – wife and two daughters, including one born in May of 2020 – returned to Denmark. “Had we known that corona would come, we would not have left [Europe],” he shared in a December interview with Ekstra Bladet.
This year, Jensen was thoroughly on the outskirts of the squad, particularly after the acquisition of Carlos Coronel from Salzburg. He failed to make the bench and was reportedly training on his own. In a recent press conference, Struber failed to acknowledge any semblance of a plan for the former number one.
Professional sports is a cutthroat business that can turn on a dime, and the goalkeeper position is often a zero-sum game giving little quarter to expensive veterans. The Red Bulls are attempting to establish a more streamlined development process, including appointing a head of goalkeeping, Jyri Nieminen, who has a healthy academic obsession with building out of the back. For all of Jensen’s many strengths, distribution is not and will never be one of them.
The move to Belgian provides the opportunity for a fresh start at a club with grand plans. Westerlo finished last season at fourth place in the eight-team second division. De Kemphanen (The Ruffers) created global headlines in 2020 for suing the Pro League and KBVB (Royal Belgian Football Association) for failing to receive promotion due to the former entity expanding to 18 teams but electing to not relegate last-place Waasland-Beveren.
Despite the setback, Westerlo is an entity that is on the rise and recently hired a new manager. Owner Oktay Erçan took over the club in June of 2019, crafting an ambitious five-year plan to build out infrastructure and develop a team that can play in European competitions. Jensen, an experienced veteran with over 100 Eredivisie appearances, could one of the foundational pieces to help reach these goals. His agency, People in Sport, already has a relationship with De Kemphanen, and the starting role is effectively open after on-loan Berke Özer returned to Fenerbahce.