clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Red Bulls Paper Revue: March 14, 2022

Patryk Klimala, Steven Sserwadda, and Jason Pendant all appear close to national team call-ups while Manny Egbo and Ben Mines find new homes in this week’s links

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

MLS Regular Season Home Opener Match New York Red Bulls v Portland Timbers
Ben Mines has headed out even further west in search of playing time.
Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

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

Christmas should be celebrated 12 times per year. Every month, we meet to give each other gifts and eat junk food. I’m sure we don’t need a holiday to cut loose, but the official sanction to behave frivolously would help. You start by sending me something (a blender would be appreciated), and I’ll remember to return the favor at some point.

Here’s this week’s top story.

***

Patryk Klimala took a huge leap forward this season, and people are starting to take notice. The Polish striker sat down (or possibly stood) for an interview with Przegląd Sportowy touching on a wide variety of topics, including “working with two mental coaches” to “train [his] breathing and focus” and appreciating an environment that gives young players a voice in the locker room. Please consume the whole article, but let me drop a few of the most intriguing comments.

Klimala noted that the team has come together as a group. “The atmosphere in the team is almost family-like,” he told writer Tomasz Moczerniuk. “Everyone is open to conversation. Thanks to this, the team looks much better, it is more harmonious and I think that we can afford to win over everyone. We divide the season into shorter sections - e.g. now we are fighting for the best result until the next break for the national team. I also think that our successes are the result of continuing good relations between the coach and players. It is not the case with us that the trainer is always right to impose something from above. Coach Gerhard Struber asks what we think about a given tactic for the game. Therefore, we do not feel uncomfortable and make decisions together. There is no typical business approach, there is dialogue and cooperation.”

Like everyone surrounding the Red Bulls, Klimala is eagerly looking forward to the insertion of Luquinhas into the lineup. “He flew to the US a few days ago,” shared the striker. “I had contact with him before he got here and I know he will be one of the main players. It’s supposed to direct the game and give us a break in front. We miss that a bit today, so I’m very happy that we will play together soon.”

Naturally, his early form has drawn the attention of the Poland national team, with the potential for a call-up to the summer’s UEFA Nations League. Manager Czesław Michniewicz told Interia that Klimala is “on the periscope” and “started well” this season. The two intersected at the country’s U-21 squad, with which the striker scored four goals in ten caps.

“I had a very good contact with coach Michniewicz,” said Klimala. “When he became the manager I congratulated him and then we talked a few more times. But these were not talks about vocations or about the future. There are Robert Lewandowski, Arek Milik and Krzysiek Piątek, which are three strikers who simply must be in the national team. I understand it perfectly well, because these players did not disappoint and scored goals. But I must admit that my goal this year is to play for the national team and I will do my best to make it happen. Whether or not I end up there will also depend on the coach.”

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s all great, but do Klimala’s dogs have an Instagram account?

Yes, indeed they do.

***

Caden Clark hosted his hometown team for the first time, with Minnesota United visiting Red Bull Arena over the weekend. The young attacker almost signed for the Loons, but manager Adrian Heath believes the timing was “maybe a year or two early.” How close did he come?

“I definitely wanted to be in Minnesota, 100 percent,” Clark told the Star Tribune. “I think we were getting close to talking about a contract and what would make sense for game time if I was with a second team, with their academy or hoped to make the first team. We just decided it wasn’t the best thing for me. It would have been really cool for me to play in Minnesota in front of my friends and family. That would have been something special. But it didn’t work out like that. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation now.”

Clark and Heath maintain a relationship and “talk often,” even meeting for “coffee or lunch.” He has a healthier bond with another club’s manager than most of us do with our parents. I’m not sure how to feel about that.

***

Ryan Meara appeared on Q104.3 (“New York’s Classic Rock”) to discuss the home opener with the Jim Kerr Rock & Roll Morning Show. He talked about his family’s history with sports, including his great-grandfather’s time with the New York Yankees. The goalkeeper also revealed his favorite place to play on the road.

“It’d have to be Atlanta,” said Meara. “They have an unbelievable fan base. They play in the Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They pack it. They get about 60, 70,000. It’s an unbelievable atmosphere to play in. We have had a bit of a rivalry the last couple years. We met them in the playoffs two or three years ago. There’s a little bad blood, so it’s always a fun game. I think they don’t like us. We don’t like them. So we enjoy that.”

Meara is the elder statesman of the Red Bulls, having been at the club for over a decade. I’m not a manager, but the back-up goalkeeper has not played a single minute in over a year. Maybe, for experience, he should get a match or two with the reserve team to stay fresh, you know, just in case.

***

Steven Sserwadda is headed to Uzbekistan… on international duty, which apparently needs to be specified in these days of foreign loans.

The Red Bulls II attacker was named to Uganda’s 35-man training camp roster for the upcoming Navruz Cup 2022. The four-team competition takes place at Markaziy Stadium in the city of Namangan from March 25th through the 29th, featuring Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and the host nation. The Cranes are looking to ramp up productivity and build some momentum heading into the next Africa Cup of Nations.

“After qualifying for two consecutive AFCON finals in 2017 and 2019, Uganda Cranes missed out on the 2021 edition in Cameroon,” said manager Milutin Sredojevic. “We immediately went for early preparations to ensure qualification for AFCON 2023... The upcoming mini-tournament in Uzbekistan will help us to conduct the main general check-up before the AFCON 2023 qualifiers in June 2022... We shall test the players with internal regional build up and tune the competitive mode since friendly matches are all about trying, testing and experimenting before naming the final 23 players who will travel to Uzbekistan.”

If named to the final roster, Sserwadda will likely miss quite a few fixtures with the reserve team. As the Red Bulls continue to pursue highly-rated international prospects, scheduling conflicts with youth national teams will continue to arise. Considering he landed on the club’s radar because of a sharp performance at the 2021 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations, the occasional sojourn may be a fair trade-off.

***

A certain Red Bull appears close to his international debut!

That’s right, folks, Jason Pendant may be about to receive his first call-up to the Vietnam Men’s National Team. According to THỂ THAO 247, the program is “promoting the summoning of an overseas star as soon as possible.” His representative “revealed information about the Vietnam Football Federation’s exchanges with the player.”

Pendant made two appearances for the Red Bulls last season. He has been outside of the senior match day roster in 2022. The 25-year-old is a former France youth international who could perhaps use a change of scenery at the club and international levels.

***

KVC Westerlo is inching closer to promotion. Led by goalkeeper David Jensen, the club has a sizable lead in the Belgian First Division B table. However, he cautions against looking ahead too much.

“We are very close now,” said Jensen. “However, we keep our feet on the ground and we remain humble. Nothing has been decided yet, but we are ready to start our final sprint. We still have three finals left. It could indeed be settled within ten days, but we are not working on that at the moment. We don’t look at the ranking. The focus is still on us and not on the opponents.”

Those words were prescient because Westerlo dropped a 1-0 result to last-place Virton. Jensen made a few saves, but it’s not like he can score the goals too. There are five matches left in the season, and while promotion appears assured, the club losing the remaining fixtures would be hilarious.

***

Kevin Thelwell received the full carwash from The Athletic, spiffed up with all the bright and shining stories of yore to excite Everton fans. He was identified by an executive recruitment specialist due to his “strong track record in youth development,” which includes “drastically reducing the age” of the Red Bulls. New York is “disappointed at [his] departure,” as the executive was considered “one of the best directors of football across [ownership’s] clubs,” which seems impressive provided the reader ignores that there are only three of them at the moment between Salzburg, Bragantino, and Leipzig.

“The salary cap and rules on spending are difficult for someone who has worked outside of MLS to grasp,” gossiped a Major League Soccer figure. “But Kevin fully trusted his staff to help him navigate it. He is a very effective leader who doesn’t let ego get in his way. He had a willingness to acknowledge what he didn’t know and learn. By the end, he was bringing real value to Red Bulls on a very small budget — nothing like what they can spend in Salzburg and Leipzig.”

His work in building relationships with player representation is also noted, going beyond the oft-cited Jorge Mendes. “Kev’s very strong and he’s got a process,” said Gary Mellor of frequent collaborators Beswick Sports. “He’s very thorough. Will call you seven days a week to get his player as he’s very focused. He’s like a dog with a bone. He wanted Tom Edwards from Stoke, who initially wasn’t sure, and eventually, he wore us down with constant Zoom calls. He’s done the hard yards.”

Regardless of what the future holds, Thelwell will continue to have his detractors and supporters among Red Bulls observers. Are they wrong? Are they right? Would their opinions be changed in either direction regardless of the Red Bulls’ future performance?

***

The desperation of an injury crisis has a way of eliminating trepidation.

No longer willing to wait for the summer, Swindon Town signed Mandela Egbo “on a deal until the end of the season.” He had been training at the League Two club since January, “with a view to moving abroad while keeping himself fit.” His manager cited a “fantastic CV” and praised the fullback’s attitude.

“I’ve been here a while… kind of just keeping fit, seeing what options came up,” said Egbo. “After a couple of injuries that had taken place in the last couple of weeks, the gaffer gave me a call and said, ‘If you’d like to, we’d be able to get you in for the rest of the season.’ I jumped at the opportunity.”

He also had nice things to say about his former club. “[New York] was just another great experience,” said the 24-year-old. “I wasn’t going to turn it down because I’m a man for experiences. I’m a man for getting out [of] my comfort zone. So when that offer came about, I kind of jumped at it and I enjoyed that as well, very much so. Off the pitch was pretty amazing, the lifestyle. I had family out there, which made it easy. That transition was pretty cool as well… I loved every minute of it.”

Swindon didn’t waste any time with the new recruit. He played 12 minutes in a 1-0 win over Oldham Athletic. The Robins are at sixth in the table, good for a spot in the playoffs but within a single point of automatic promotion.

***

New York City Football Club announced the signing of Kevin O’Toole to a first-team contract “through the 2022 Major League Soccer season with options for 2023 and 2024.” The 23-year-old was selected with a first round pick in the 2022 SuperDraft. He was affiliated with the Red Bulls Academy for years, progressing through the U-23 and reserve squads.

Time will tell if the club regrets making a more aggressive pursuit. Will O’Toole score multiple match-winners against his former side or quietly pass through NYCFC? The decisions we make can have long-term consequences or none at all, with little warning of which are which.

***

The Red Bulls Academy will be competing at the 2022 Patterson Cup. “One of the best youth tournaments in the country” takes place from June 8th through the 12th at the “world-class Swope Soccer Village” in Kansas City, Missouri. The club is participating at the U-13 and U-14 age levels alongside a host of MLS competitors.

***

Jesse Marsch has at least one vocal supporter. Former Red Bull winger Shaun Wright-Phillips [Yes, yes, he’s more famous for other clubs.] gave a glowing review of his former manager. As is said in the English press, he tips the new Leeds United boss for success.

“As a person he’s very emotionally attached to people giving 110 percent and that’s not just in the game, it’s in training as well,” said the other Wright-Phillips. “Even when he’s in your 5-a-side team, if you don’t cover a man by a yard, he’ll be screaming at you and then he’ll go make a slide tackle to make up for it... Obviously now his coaching would have evolved because he’s not at New York Red Bulls anymore. He’s been to a few different clubs; he’s had to learn different tactics and how to combat other things.”

Leeds had some tactical issues late in Marcelo Bielsa’s tenure, which may be solved by the new hire. “When you go into the Champions League, there’s a lot of teams who know how to beat the press, so the next question you ask is when that happens, where do you go from there?” queried retired winger. “I think he would have added that to his criteria and I think he’ll do a good job at Leeds because he’ll nullify their biggest weakness currently which is the man-to-man marking. The players were following their men all over the pitch which left massive holes with nobody covering which is where Leeds is being countered. It got to a point where they just simply conceded too many goals, so he’ll come in and try to change that.”

With the caveat that Wright-Phillips has forgotten more about soccer than an overwhelming majority of the populace could ever hope to know, there might be a few general holes in his praise. For example, Marsch may not have quite diversified his tactics at the “different clubs” of Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig, with many criticizing what has been perceived as an unrelenting gegenpress and dogged high-energy vertical attacking. The ability to handle opponents breaking the press and forcing him into a different style may also present more of an issue, perhaps termed as the “lack of a plan B,” which are words that have never in all ever of evers been attached to the manager.

But I’m sure he’ll do something about that man-to-man marking. If you’re interested in more tactical breakdowns of Marsch, Total Football Analysis has a pretty good one. I read a few paragraphs before realizing the whole thing was above my level of understanding.

***

Former Red Bulls Homegrown Ben Mines is headed out on loan. FC Cincinnati sent him to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC “for the duration of the 2022 USL Championship season.” The 21-year-old spent part of last season with Orange County SC, scoring three goals in 13 matches for the league winners.

The midfielder/defender seems prepared to make an impact in the Centennial State. “I’m extremely excited to be joining a great club and an organization full of good people,” said Mines. “It’s an awesome opportunity for me to join an already talented team and I can’t wait to get to work.”

The Switchbacks (“A sharp turn in a road or path as it traverses a steep incline”) opened the season against Mines’ former club, Orange County. The Colorado squad rang up a 2-1 victory over last year’s champions. The new signing entered the match in the 67th minute.

***

Fábio Gomes is loving life at Clube Atlético Mineiro. The striker has two goals and one assist in six Campeonato Mineiro state league matches. He is even forging a relationship with his main competition for minutes, Hulk.

“I said he’s like he’s not the ‘boss’ here, but a guy who sets an example for anyone,” said the Brazilian striker. “He is an example for me. I get inspired by him for being the guy he is, for training a lot. When I have any doubts about something he’s been through, I ask him. Because he’s older than me and I respect what he does, on the pitch, off the pitch, I ask. ‘Brother, how is it?’ It’s a healthy environment for me and him, no rivalry, ever. I always support him, because I know that when I join, he will support me and we will have a great campaign ahead.”

Their working relationship may continue beyond this season. According to Globo, Hulk has a contract through 2022 but “is getting closer to fulfilling a renewal clause.” Fábio’s deal is through 2025, which gives the 24-year-old time to continue developing.

He also discussed dealing with adversity. “Criticism is good, because you know you have to improve every day,” said Fábio. “I like it. It’s always been that way for me. I know it will be difficult to adapt. I already have to get this in my head that I need to improve every day. The adaptation is not one or two months, but three, four months. So then I can be charged. But I am very calm and working hard on it.”

Unfortunately, there may be a little more criticism coming his way. He received a red card in the 94th minute last weekend against Democrata GV. The striker engaged in a shoving match with an opponent and “tried to attack the defender” after appearing to have hands placed on his throat.

I imagine this sort of flare-up happens often in the Brazilian state leagues where lower division sides are matched up against some of the continent’s biggest clubs. Perhaps Fábio should recognize that he wins merely by wearing the Atlético jersey and there will always be a target on his back. Missing matches doesn’t help his career, but this may serve as a valuable lesson.

***

Staying in Brazil, former reserve team attacker Amarildo Aparecido de Souza Junior has a new club. Most recently in Portugal at Famalicão where he scored five goals for the U-23 team, the 23-year-old landed at Clube Náutico Capibaribe in the national Campeonato Brasileiro Série B and Campeonato Pernambucano state competition. The native of Paranavaí made seven appearances during the 2019 USL Championship season, contributing one goal and one assist in 146 minutes. His time in New York could be summed up by a single image.

“We accepted Timbense’s project because we saw the possibility of him taking a leap in his career,” said his representative, Deividson Andrews. “In the middle of the way, Famalicão, a team from Portugal’s first division, appeared. We accepted the invitation, but things didn’t go very well there. He trained in the team main, but I played in the under-23. So, we decided to go for this project (Náutico).”

Náutico is managed by none other than Felipe Conceição. The 42-year-old was appointed to lead Red Bull Bragantino in January of 2020 and was dismissed in August. Since then, he has managed five different clubs, demonstrating the musical chairs nature of Brazilian soccer.

***

Former MetroStars general manager Nick Sakiewicz was announced as the Chief Business Officer with the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes. The “newly created position” involves “all aspects of the sales and marketing efforts.” The then-AEG executive is touted as “brokering a record breaking $100 million sale of the [club] to the Red Bull Energy Drink Company.”

Sakiewicz most recently served as the commissioner of the National Lacrosse League. Celestial Philadelphia sports website Crossing Broad [The radio wars posts are a must-read.] speculates that his move may be connected to stadium issues. The Coyotes are described as “in an arena pickle out there in the desert, moving to a new facility at Arizona State on a temporary basis.” His experience getting the Philadelphia Union housed and settled may have played a role in the hiring, despite the job description only mentioning “sales and marketing.”

Moving to Arizona could be fun and is probably great for the lungs because of the dry heat.

***

Believe it or not, Omar Sowe is not the first Red Bull to grace Breiðablik.

Former Academy attacker Ismar “Izzy” Tandir prowled the frozen Icelandic tundra of Kópavogur in 2015. He made seven total appearances and scored one goal for the Blikar (splendor/twinkle) before moving on to Deportivo Aragón in Spain. The 26-year-old former Bosnia youth international is currently on the books at Mohammedan SC in the I-League (India). The Black Panthers sport a 3-0 record, but he has yet to appear on the bench.

Anyway, I hope you learned something.

***

Hey, did you know that Youri Djorkaieff still lives in New Yawk?

The World Cup champion used to manage the Inter Campus, a “social project” from Inter Milan in collaboration with the Youri Djorkaeff Foundation. He also serves as the head of the FIFA Foundation which strives “to help promote positive social change around the world and raise support for the recovery and reconstruction of damaged or destroyed sports infrastructure worldwide.” A recent trip to Peru allowed him to “witness how funds from the Recovery program have been used to help rebuild three training facilities and stadia destroyed by catastrophic weather events.”

However, like many great figures in history, his greatest passion remains fashion. Djorkaeff told L’Equipe that he started his own brand. “In my Milanese years, I often got invited to fashion shows, especially Giorgio Armani, and so I got to better know a world that I have always liked,” said the striker. “And then in those years the fashion houses were very close to the football clubs.”

Djorkaeff played with the Red Bulls in 2005 and 2006. He was okay in his first season and less than that in the second. I’m sure his clothes are neat.

Here’s a joke that was submitted by Beryl of Brick.

The only fashion I like is a stiff old fashioned.

Thank you, Beryl. My friend told me had a problem with drinking. I said, “Try putting it up to your lips.”

***

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.