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Red Bulls Paper Revue: January 24, 2022

Gerhard Struber speaks (again) in Austria, Mario Gomez and Fabio settle into their new roles, and Luca Lewis re-emerges in this week’s links

New York Red Bulls v Philadelphia Union: Playoff - 2021 MLS Cup
Gerhard Struber gave his send-off interview with the Austrian press before returning to New York.
Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

Welcome to the Red Bulls Paper Revue presented by Once a Metro.

Sometimes when I go out for a run in the morning, there is a fox. He sees me and stops to glare. Every time we lock eyes, I think, “Is today the day?” Eventually, he and I, we’re gonna have to settle this. If these columns ever cease, readers will know the result of our meeting.

Here’s this week’s top story.

***

After a quite interesting few months, Gerhard Struber spoke with SPORT1 about everything from his hopes for the future to Ralf Rangnick and everything in between. The manager was able to “develop [himself] and really cool talents” after being hired by the Salzburg youth academy. His journey has transformed him into quite the candidate for any job.

“The RB school gave me a strong basis in terms of content,” said Struber. “This has been expanded in recent years through my positions as head coach and thanks to internships in Italy, Germany and England. Now I’m a coach who is very proactive and has answers at every stage of football - not just when it’s off the ball. I also always maintain a very close, trusting relationship with my players – also with the guys from the clubs in the past.”

Despite flirtations with Manchester United and in Germany, he chose to stay in MLS. “I feel very comfortable in the role of head coach and I want to continue on this path,” shared the 44-year-old. “We also have a lot planned in New York… [Werder Bremen] just didn’t work out back then – also because I just started at Red Bull New York and got a lot off the ground. Not leaving the team at short notice would not have been okay. But it’s true. [The club] spoke to my advisor.”

There are also some natural threads strung between Struber and another former New York manager, Jesse Marsch. “Jesse took on a very demanding job in Leipzig,” expressed the Austrian. “It did not work out as well as both sides would have liked. However, it is not a deterrent example because football in general can go in different directions very quickly… Yes, and we know each other well and value each other very much. But Jesse and I are made of completely different stuff. Our way of thinking and approach is not comparable to each other.”

Taking the most charitable view of those comments and moving ahead, his eventual goal is to manage in the Bundesliga or another top league. He doesn’t “think too much about the future,” preferring to “enjoy the here and now.” That is a very Zen philosophy, to which I have never subscribed.

***

SPORT1 may be the best source for information about the New York Red Bulls because Once a Metro certainly isn’t.

The German outlet explored the appointment of Mario Gómez to the international technical director position at Red Bull. The role is described as a “great challenge,” a step up in responsibility for the former player. Multiple sporting figures consider him up for the position, citing his “great deal of experience in football and business.”

However, SPORT1 claims that “insiders of the Red Bulls cosmos” have “slight doubts about Gomez’s professional suitability for a job in senior management due to his lack of experience and training.” While there may be some initial struggles (“Where is the lunch room?” and “To whom do I send my timesheets?”) his “large network” and ability to “speak several languages” should provide a boost. “He can learn a lot and will find out for himself whether it’s the right thing for him,” said former player and VfB Stuttgart CEO Thomas Hitzlsperger.

The technical director position should grow in prominence as Red Bull looks to strengthen New York and take advantage of a burgeoning Bragantino. As a high-level athlete, Gómez possesses a drive and commitment that few others possess. If the recently retired player wanted to avoid challenges with the potential to end in embarrassment and earn easier money, he would have stayed in commentating.

***

Described as “The Silent Crack,” the Venezuelan soccer community is excited for the development of Wikelman Carmona. The 18-year-old attacker joined the Red Bulls last season, taking on a significantly greater role than first imagined. His former trainer weighed in on the best potential position for the young talent.

“His knowledge of the game and his function in the midfield favor him, but as a midfielder or as a midfielder on both flanks, for managing both [positions] well,” said Alex Salazar of Academia Dynamo. “He can fulfill both functions [as a hitch and box-to-box]. With us, he played box-to-box on the left, but he does have many hooking characteristics because he can be free or play on both wings. He is left-handed, left-handed, but he has a good punch with his right. His greatest virtues are his knowledge of the game and his punch… In the MLS he tells me that it is not so much the talent, but how you walk the field. He has learned to score and runs backwards.”

According to Salazar, Carmona needs “a little more attitude.” That will come with time, as the midfielder is due for a big step forward after adjusting to MLS last season. Perhaps his scoring will increase, with a few more audacious long-range efforts.

***

Possible transfer target Andrés Cubas is out with an injury. The 25-year-old Nîmes midfielder “has been laid off completely until the end of January.” He injured his leg in a match against Dijon on January 8th. An MRI revealed “a slight crack in the right fibula.”

Paraguay has removed Cubas from the roster for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Brazil. Despite the injury setback, that would likely not stop the Red Bulls from pursuing his signature. This, of course, assumes the club is still pursuing him.

***

Transfer target-ish Joscha Wosz is definitely not heading to New York right now. The 19-year-old attacker signed with Hallescher FC on a loan through June of 2022. Chemie competes in the third-tier of German soccer, with the newest signing playing 17 minutes in last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Eintracht Braunschweig.

***

You probably weren’t, but avoid getting attached to the Taxiarchis Fountas rumor. The 26-year-old Greek international seems to be staying with SK Rapid Wien until his contract ends. According to Liga Portal, “the sparrows are whistling from the rooftops” that he will leave next summer,” which is quite poetic imagery.

I imagine anything sounds better when whistled from the rooftop by a chorus of sparrows. “*Cheep cheep* You claim that everyone hates you but they don’t think about you enough to hold such an intense feeling. *Cheep cheep*” See, that’s much better.

***

The Red Bulls selected Giannis Nikopolidis with the 71st pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. Born in Athens in 2000, he spent four seasons at Georgetown University. Before heading to New York, the goalkeeper sat down for a wide-wide-wide-ranging interview with Gazzetta.

“I was lucky enough to be chosen by a team, which from what I have talked to them, seems to be very organized,” said Nikopolidis. “I [will not] hide from you that I expected to be in the first round… I expected to be higher, but the important thing is what you will do in your career, not in what position you will be selected in the draft.”

His dream is “to play for the top teams in Europe.” While his father is considered a legend in Greece, Nikopolidis is used to the “weight” of expectations and has carried them all his life. He also claims that only “the top three-to-four” Super League teams would be competitive in MLS, so feel free to upgrade the grand football comparison ledger.

***

Sticking with the SuperDraft, the Red Bulls selected O’Vonte Mullings with the 20th pick in the first round after an impressive performance at a local combine. The Florida Gulf Coast (Dunk City) attacker hails from Toronto, Canada and was a flat-out dominant player in the Atlantic Sun Conference. He spoke with Izubee Charles of the Fort Myers News-Press in the midst of the preseason.

“I really showed well and left a good impression with the coaching staff,” said Mullings. “I felt like that kind of enhanced my ability to join the team and enhanced their ability to take me. I feel like being able to attend those combines was something that I had to do.”

Mullings already overcame an ACL injury, considering rehabilitation “one of the most important things in his career.” He plans to complete his entrepreneurship degree during the season, demonstrating the true versatility of the American athlete. His future hope is to “be the manager of an organization,” which will hopefully happen after a long, long playing career with dozens of trophies and a multi-million dollar transfer to Europe.

Read the whole article HERE.

***

Earlier in the week, Mathias Jørgensen was connected with a move to France. According to Objectif Gard, Ligue 2 side Nîmes Olympique was interested in acquiring his services. However, there was no offer “for the time being.”

Instead, the striker is set to join Esbjerg fB, according to a report from Danish outlet JydskeVestkysten. The 21-year-old has begun training with the club, although negotiations “drag on.” The attacker is described as “fast as the wind,” but writer Ole Bruun notes that “if he could also score goals at regular interviews, he would hardly have ended up [here].”

Esbjerg competes in the second-tier 1st Division and was recently purchased by Chien Lee, owner of Barnsley, K.V. Oostende, AS Nancy, among others. Based in West Jutland, the club is currently at eighth in the 12-team table with 19 points from 18 matches. Scoring has been an issue, which presents the opportunity for Jørgensen to make an impact.

Coincidentally, there is already a Mathias Jørgensen in town. The 26-year-old name-fellow is a star right winger for the Ribe-Esbjerg handball club. He recently extended his contract through June of 2023, experiencing a level of local success and comfort that his footballing counterpart hopes to achieve.

***

Where is Luca Lewis? The former Red Bulls goalkeeper is in Italy, training at Cesena Football Club. His father recently became co-president of I Cavallucci Marini (The Seahorses).

According to local reports, Lewis is merely training while the third goalkeeper is out with a muscle injury. Based in the Emilia-Romagna administrative region, Cesena F.C. is the phoenix club of A.C. Cesena which folded in 2018. The Seahorses are at third place of Group B in Serie C, on pace for a spot in the promotion playoffs.

***

The Saint Martin Men’s National Team put in an impressive performance at the last CONCACAF Nations League, reeling off a 3-3-0 record and narrowly missing out on promotion. Led by former Red Bull Stéphane Auvray, the Saint Swallows are gearing up for the next edition of the competition. He is leading a training session with the aim of “motivating players to aim higher by confronting them with high-level football with a manager who is familiar with new training techniques.”

Saint Martin is located on the French side of the Island of Saint Martin, shared with the Dutch Sint Maarten. The team is not a member of FIFA but competes in CONCACAF. Home matches are played at the lovely Stade Alberic Richards located in Sandy Ground. Despite the town’s name, the field is a “synthetic lawn” and not, well, sand.

***

Here’s a story that was submitted by OaM Oakland bureau chief Juan Mesa.

Word out of Ecuador is that C.S. Emelec is nearing a deal with a company, likely for stadium naming rights but maybe more. After the hint was allegedly dropped by periodista (journalist) Romulo Barcos, the country’s footballing fan base is fast connecting threads, with the precision of an online Jim Garrison. Whenever business interests and sport are mentioned in conjunction, everyone’s mind naturally wanders to an Austrian organization that has thrived in both fields.

***

Some guy named Fábio Gomes was introduced at an official press conference by Atlético Mineiro. He is considered a “low investment,” with a reported monthly salary of 180,000 Brazilian reais (about $395,000 per year) and “the potential to generate business for his age” while “still attractive to foreign markets.” After receiving the number nine jersey, the striker is looking forward to facilitating his teammates.

“I’m more of an area guy,” said Fábio. “Hulk is a great player. I don’t even have to say. I have to adapt to his style of play. I know that inside the area I yield more than leaving the area. I have to free him up because he’s an amazing player. He thinks fast, so you have to think together. Inside the area, I have to move around a lot.”

Having watched him play for the Red Bulls, off-ball striker appears to be the ideal role for Fábio. He is now squarely in the spotlight, playing for the top club in Brazil. The 2022 season starts on Wednesday in the state league against Villa Nova.

***

Scratch one potential location off the list. Josh Sims will not be signing with Hull City. The EFL Championship club “rubbished [the] link” according to Hull Live.

Since you’re probably wondering, a “rubbished link” would be classified as metal and go in the yellow recycling cans, not the green ones.

***

Here’s another story that was submitted by the generous OaM Oakland bureau chief Juan Mesa.

Samuel Tetteh is on fire. Not literally, but the Ghanaian striker has scored thrice in two matches. He hit for a brace in Adanaspor’s 3-0 victory over Genclerbirligi Ankara.

Here is a recap of the match.

This is the same player I remember seeing in highlights prior to his signing: an off-ball striker who thrives on solid service and doesn’t waste opportunities. For some reason, the Red Bulls had him chasing and receiving passes outside of the final third. Perhaps his MLS tenure could have gone a different way, but we’ll never know.

***

The Red Bulls signed striker Zach Ryan to a Homegrown contract. He spent five seasons at Stanford University, racking up a bevy of individual and team accolades. With an age of 23 years old, my mind wandered back to a quote given last summer by Kevin Thelwell.

“The philosophy in the identity of our football club, and also the Red Bull group in particular, is based around the development of young players,” said the head of sport. “The research around young players says that if you haven’t played senior minutes in a competitive environment by the time you’re 19-years-of-age, you’re probably not going to ascend to the level of which you want to ascend to, and of course, there are outliers to that. We have lots of players who are older and come through a different route; therefore, that says to us it’s very, very important to place our players in this professional environment where they get these minutes, they get this experience and the opportunity to grow.”

For the Red Bulls, Ryan would, ideally, be one of those “outliers.” He has an uphill climb ahead of him, but the club chose to sign him to a valuable senior roster spot instead of the reserve team. With striker remaining a need, the Stanford Cardinal could force his way into the lineup, especially if the goals continue during preseason.

***

One-time sorta-kinda-maybe transfer target Moik Jesse Khan made his first senior international appearances. The 17-year-old midfielder played 45 minutes in Trinidad and Tobago’s 5-0 friendly loss to Bolivia. He was described as a “bright spark in his lively debut, while most of his teammates looked exhausted and off the pace.”

Khan was reported to be on trial with the Red Bulls last summer. He spent the fall at St. Benedict’s Prep, competing for the school’s powerhouse soccer program. The Gray Bees finished the season with a 13-0-0 record and claimed a 26th overall New Jersey Independent Schools Athletic Association Prep A championship.

***

Do you remember when the Red Bulls were briefly connected to Katlego Tsiki Ntsabeleng? Well, the Oregon State attacker was selected by FC Dallas in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. His progression is described as “an indictment on South African scouting,” with the player not receiving any youth national team call-ups.

Perhaps, in time, Ntsabeleng will also become an indictment on Red Bulls scouting, but probably not. The sport doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and talent acquisition isn’t a zero-sum game. Players succeed and thrive independent of one another.

I wish all of you a blessed day.

***

A former Red Bull found a new club.

Edgardo Rito signed with Oakland Roots ahead of the 2022 USL Championship season. “Edgardo is someone who knows the league and also has international experience,” said manager Juan Guerra. “His athleticism, power, speed and versatility make him a very important asset for us and a very good fit for the team and the league.”

The 25-year-old fullback joined Red Bulls II on loan in 2019. He spent two seasons at the club, contributing two goals and one assist in 34 appearances. After a stretch with Patriotas Boyacá, Rito has returned to the United States, free to enjoy living in the Bay Area.

I’ve been told California has different and better American Chinese food than New York. Does that sound possible? Perhaps with some dishes, but I’m not sure if something like General Tso’s can be elevated at a noticeable level.

***

Anatole Abang is in the United Arab Emirates, enjoying his time at Al Bataeh Club in the second-tier Division One. He is on a six-month contract, according to a brief interview with Offside Plus. The Cameroonian striker delved deeper into the situation, talking to Report.

“I received an offer from Azerbaijani clubs, but I did not accept it,” said Abang. “I do not want to disclose the names of the clubs, but I did not like those offers. Therefore, I signed a contract with the UAE club.”

Azerbaijani soccer fans should remain upbeat, as Abang teased the possibility of a return. Yes, the scorer of wonder-goals and occasional earner of cards could come back “maybe in three-to-four years.” That is, presumably, after a second stint with the Red Bulls, sure to happen… any day now.

***

Speaking of USL, there’s a regular Red Bull reunion going on at Memphis 901 FC. The club now features Zach Carroll, Rece Buckmaster, and Patrick Seagrist on the back line. One more defender and there’s the potential for an entire back line composed of former SuperDraft selections.

Here’s a joke that was submitted by Mildred of Howell.

If Memphis is truly desperate for another player, maybe they can get Muriel at the Hollywood to step away from the piano.

Thank you, Mildred. I’ve never liked Walking in Memphis, particularly that part when Muriel asks if the protagonist is a Christian, to which he replies, “Ma’am, I am tonight.” So the answer is no, you are not a Christian, you evasive weirdo. I don’t care if a person is religious or not, but that’s worse than being a Christmas Catholic. Have some consistency. “Oh, I’m an agnostic except when lying to some woman at a bar I’m trying to seduce with my gormless attempt at charm.”

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Do you have a story you’d like to submit to the Paper Revue? Email us at bencorkOAM@gmail.com or send a DM to @Once_A_Metro on Twitter.