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Red Bulls assistant Bradley Carnell hired as first St Louis City manager

South African taking on first head coaching role of career after five years in New York

SOCCER: OCT 10 MLS - New York Red Bulls at Atlanta United FC Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bradley Carnell departs New York Red Bulls for St. Louis City SC

The New York Red Bulls are losing a long-tenured member of staff, a consistent presence bridging the gap across multiple manager tenures, including his own.

Bradley Carnell is headed to the Gateway City, assuming the lead role for expansion side St. Louis CITY SC, set to begin play in 2023. He was recently connected to an assistant position with Manchester United but opted to reconnect with sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel. The story was first reported by Sam Stejskal of The Athletic.

After a long playing career that included stops at Wits University, VfB Stuttgart, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Karlsruher, and Hansa Rostock, Carnell worked as a commentator and marketer. Missing the thrill of competition, he became a manager for the University of Johannesburg while working on UEFA coaching courses, which put him into contact with Pfannenstiel. Following assistant roles at Free State Stars and Orlando Pirates, the past came calling.

Former Red Bull major-domo Ralf Rangnick reached out to Carnell, his former player at Stuttgart. He brought him to New York to work as an assistant under Jesse Marsch. The South African stuck around during Chris Armas’ tenure, eventually receiving the chance to lead the club.

With the Red Bulls flailing and in danger of missing the playoffs, Carnell was appointed interim manager. He established a baseline of results and embarked solid run of form, giving the players confidence and more freedom in the attack. The club reached the postseason, a noticeable and intriguing demonstration of skill from the previously unheralded assistant. While the decade-plus streak of consecutive appearances may be of little tangible value, this high watermark of consistency has been met by but a single other Major League Soccer organization (Seattle Sounders FC). Thus, his work of a few months merits some mention in the annals of New York soccer history, the significance of which debated with hindsight.

His brief spell in the top spot ignited a desire to continue in a similar role. “The way I felt I went about it just gave me ambition and an appetite for more,” Carnell told ESPN. “I didn’t want to be in a position to be like thinking in five years’ time, 10 years’ time, and then all of a sudden, the opportunity, it’s too late, and you will be this assistant coach forever. That why I decided to punch into this and take this opportunity.”

The writing appeared on the wall in New York when he failed to be appointed to the manager role following his interim stint. As is common for many job seekers, an internal hire is simply not as valued as the flashy, splashy, more experienced outsider. Carnell stuck around for the first season of Gerhard Struber’s high-flying overhaul, continuing to perform his well-learned assistant duties for a gegenpressing tactical system. However, his role appeared reduced during matches, with the Austrian seeming to prefer the input and feedback of others in the technical area.

Carnell hinted at a departure last month, telling Soccer Laduma that his focus is “on [his] great work in the United States and Major League Soccer,” not New York. The move to St. Louis is a fresh start in every sense. His first permanent manager role includes the ability to build a squad in his image from the ground up, taking the reins in a city long prophesized as the next great soccer American soccer mecca, with passion for the sport oozing out the corners of every neighborhood like the notorious Provel cheese.

As for the Red Bulls, there is another hole to fill this offseason, although an assistant appears far less difficult to acquire than a do-everything fullback. While there have been no rumors or stories in support of the following speculation, the smart money should be on Tonda Eckert. Most recently at Barnsley FC, the 28-year-old departed the Tykes in November, after initially being brought to the club by Struber and sticking around through the tenures of Valérien Ismaël and Markus Schopp. He spent six years as a youth manager with Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig, overlapping with the New York manager in Austria.