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Red Bulls Paper Revue: June 13, 2022

Omar Sowe gets in trouble, Kevin Thelwell talks to Tim Howard, and Fábio Gomes prepares for a possible MLS return in this week’s links

MLS: Playoffs- Round One-New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union
Could Fabio be returning to MLS soon?
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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

In the music video for “Gravel Pit,” the Wu-Tang Clan travels to the year 2,000,000 B.C. (that is two million years before Christ or “common era”) via a time-traveling elevator. While we could quibble about the method of transportation, I’m more curious about how they end up in an oasis surrounded by dinosaurs. Members of the clade Dinosauria first appeared during the Triassic period roughly 243 million years ago and became fully extinct 66 million years ago. While the earth is over 4.5 billion years ago and there is a possibility we’ve yet to discover another era of dinosaurs, I sincerely doubt this particular storyline is accurate and would prefer if the music video was removed from YouTube.

Here’s this week’s top story.

***

There was an international break, which means one thing: Gerhard Struber spoke to the international press.

The Austrian manager discussed roster building with a young squad and how Major League Soccer compares to the Bundesliga. He chatted about how the club operates as opposed to Red Bull Salzburg, noting that New York “cannot afford a flop in any way” due to the budget but “youngsters are realizing that they have chances of playing time.” There was even some praise of the key player that is Carlos Coronel.

Naturally, the conversation turned to a potential return to Europe, touching on the recent rumors involving Augsburg. “In the last few weeks there have been a few clubs that have been in contact with my agency,” he shared with Austrian outlet Kronen Zeitung. “I think that’s quite normal if you’ve been on a successful path in recent years. But I have a contract and I feel responsible for the team. There is a special bond between us. So now is not the time to end this. It’s about realizing our goals. But I also know that at some point it will be the right time for the next step.”

As far as living in New York, there are challenges but also some bright spots. “The biggest downside is that my family is not with me,” expressed Struber. “But that was it with the shadow. The league is really interesting, the atmosphere is cool, life in New York is fantastic. For example, I recently got the chance to go to Madison Square Garden by invitation to watch a Rangers NHL game. The ice hockey was very intense, and the house was sold out - it was a very special atmosphere. I’m also looking forward to the US Open in tennis and hope that Dominic Thiem will be there. I would love to watch a game or two. All in all, living in New York is something very special, for which I am very grateful.”

The U.S. Open is from August 29th through September 11th, which could indicate Struber is at least thinking of staying in New York for a few more months. Also, Thiem is a friend of assistant coach Bernd Eibler, both hailing from Wiener Neustadt. The Austrian tennis player wore a Red Bulls jersey at the 2020 tournament.

***

As the Lord of Rivendell once remarked, “Our list of existing transfer rumors grows thin.”

Zlatko Junuzović called it a day on his career. The Serbian-Bosnian-Austrian midfielder retired after claiming a final league-and-cup double with Red Bull Salzburg. Instead of continuing the grinding life of a professional footballer, he decided to move into coaching with the club’s reserve team.

“Together with my family, I have thought long and hard about what is best for our future,” said the 34-year-old. “It was not with a light heart that I made the decision to end my career as a professional footballer, but I am full of anticipation. The decisive factor was above all the opportunity to start as an assistant coach at FC Liefering and thus remain in the middle of professional football. I have had so many good experiences here in Salzburg, both athletically and personally, that I would like to take advantage of the professional opportunity in this great environment. I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life.”

Despite circling retirement, there was some interest abroad in the midfielder, reportedly from “USA or Australia.” Well, the first area isn’t up for debate. We know who and what club were interested in Junuzović.

Sladdi was always an interesting topic,” said Gerhard Struber in the aforementioned Kronen Zeitung interview. “Especially when you know how much he would have liked to have made the jump. We’ve talked a few times. However, since we are taking a very ambitious young path in New York, we have come to the conclusion that we will not work together. But I really appreciate him as a player. It’s incredible what career he had. Salzburg has benefited immensely from him in recent years.”

In a different league with more workable roster limitations and a different world where Junuzović didn’t spend the last season dealing with injury issues, maybe he comes to New York. The Red Bulls have a noticeable history of giving players their final contract, which is explicitly verboten under the principles of Ralfball. While the midfielder may have provided some boost, commitment to the young core appears to be the chosen direction.

***

Polish Ekstraklasa side Lechia Gdańsk has begun training for the next season. According to Trójmiasto, eight members of the team are absent, including Brazilian winger Conrado. He is “expected to arrive late but should [show up] before [the club] leaves for training camp.”

Hmm.

Hm. Hm.

Hm hm hm.

Hm hm hm.

Hm hm.

Hm.

Hm-m-m.

Hmmmmmmmm. Hm.

Ah, you know, it’s probably nothing.

***

Perhaps things were going a little too well in Iceland.

The Disciplinary and Ruling Committee of the Icelandic Football Association handed a two-match ban to Omar Sowe. The Breiðablik striker was caught on film in a recent match against Íþróttafélagið Leiknir (Leiknir Reykjavík) providing an elbow (or two) to opponent Brynjar Hlöðversson. The referee missed the incident, to the chagrin of witnesses.

Video review takes no prisoners. “It is the committee’s assessment that the incident referred to in the managing director’s report from 31 May last and also appears in a video that accompanies the Secretary General’s statement, is a serious disciplinary violation,” wrote the adjudicators in a press release. “Neither the judge nor his assistants saw the incident.”

Sowe was enjoying a nice start to his loan. He had two goals and an assist in eight appearances for the table toppers, making two starts. Now the 21-year-old must wait a little bit to rejoin the squad, hopefully having learned a lesson, if there is one to be digested.

In happier news, here’s some footage from his goal in a recent match.

***

Let’s put a permanent bow on that old Darragh Lenihan rumor. The 28-year-old out-of-contract defender signed with Middlesbrough. He departed Blackburn Rovers after over 200 appearances for the club since his debut in 2012.

And that’s that.

***

Fábio Gomes may not be long for Clube Atlético Mineiro. According to local media figure Jorge Nicola, the club is hoping to move him this summer, ideally to the United States or Mexico. While there have yet to be any “concrete proposals,” the executives “would welcome a negotiation” and offer.

You know, Rodney Dangerfield had a great joke about this situation. He actually didn’t, but imagine if he did.

***

FC Andorra reached the championship of the Primera División RFEF but lost, 3-0, to Racing de Santander. Ruben Bover played 30 minutes in the final, finishing the season with 38 total appearances. The former Red Bull put up four goals and three assists, also serving as captain.

However, fear not. By finishing the regular season atop Group 2 with 71 points, Andorra earned automatic promotion without having to venture through the buzz saw that is the Spanish playoffs. Next season, Els Tricolors (The Tricolours) will compete in the Segunda División.

“What a year,” Bover posted on his personal Instagram account. “I told my colleagues the other day. I have been lucky enough to win leagues and promotions in other places including here. But people are not aware of the group of people that this family contains. I wouldn’t change any other title for this one, THANK YOU ALL. No one knows how many hours we have put into it this year, work, mornings, afternoons, at home. Never in my life will I forget this year, possibly the best of my life. I love you all.”

FC Andorra has been on a steady claim, starting the 2010-11 season in the seventh tier of Spanish football. In addition to being located in the picturesque setting of the Pyrenees mountain range, the home shirt is simply phenomenal. The club is owned by none other than Gerard Piqué, who had nothing else going on over the past few weeks and certainly wasn’t in the media for his impending divorce from Shakira (Shakira).

***

Former reserve team player János Löbe returned to Germany. The 26-year-old midfielder signed with Eintracht Hohkeppel, recently promoted to the fifth-tier Oberliga Mittelrhein (Middle Rhine League) after winning the Landesliga Mittelrhein. The club is very excited for his addition, describing him as “very ambitious” with a “very professional attitude.”

Löbe was selected by the Red Bulls in the first round of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft after four seasons at Fordham University. He made 24 total appearances with the reserves in the USL Championship, contributing one goal and 11 assists. After departing, he spent two seasons with The Miami Football Club.

***

Tim Cahill remains ever the Renaissance man about town. His latest venture is the high-octane world of motorsports. The former Red Bull is “part of the group that will enter the first-ever Asia-Pacific team into Extreme E, the electric off-road motor racing series.”

He is a member of XE Sports Group, which sells electric vehicles and is backed by Warren Buffett. “I’m really excited to be a part of this team,” said Cahill. “The combination of thrilling, competitive racing and leaving a lasting, positive impact makes the sport totally unique. We look forward to bringing a significant new audience to Extreme E from within the millions of football fans across the world.”

The Extreme E competition kicked o-… revved up in 2021, featuring 18 drives and nine teams. Races took place in Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Greenland, Italy, and the United Kingdom. A selling point of the league is that female and male drivers go head-to-head with “equal equipment,” described as a “revolutionary sporting format” where each gender is “required to complete one lap in each heat.”

***

Former Red Bulls head of sport Kevin Thelwell spoke with some guy named Tim Howard, who I’m told played for the MetroStars. They discussed Everton and the pressures felt at the club, which includes the executive’s Liverpudlian father constantly checking to make sure his son doesn’t ruin things. He even touched on his time in New York.

“[My role] wasn’t too dissimilar to the job description here,” said Thelwell. “I have to say, I loved my time in the states. I was there for two-and-a-quarter years. I was very, very lucky to live on the outskirts of New York. It was a fantastic experience for me and my family. I loved working in MLS… It was a head of sport role. I had a sporting director who worked directly with me. My responsibility was to do all of the things I do here at Everton, work on all of those functions that we talked about, supporting operations. But then also work with the sport director, Denis Hamlett, and help to support him to grow into the role, and to improve and to develop. I loved my time there. It was a very good club, very good people, and I’m glad to see that they’re doing well in the Eastern Conference this year.”

Howard vouched for the sporting director, referring to Hamlett as “certainly a good man.” Other than that, pretty fun interview in general, if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s also a charming little anecdote about the former head of sport conversing with Everton fans in Morristown, New Jersey, who must be shocked that they briefly had his ear (if they know who Thelwell is at all).

***

Former MetroStar Paul Dougherty is loving life in San Diego. Just ask him. Actually don’t, because the Shropshire Star already did.

“I love it here,” said Dougherty. “The weather is great all year long. I can go to the beach, get out biking and surfing and other ocean sports, and just stay really healthy, still paying a bit of football. I live on the north side of San Diego and it’s a beautiful place, like a hidden gem of America because we are over on the West Coast although more people are finding about it now. So, any regrets about coming out here? No, not really!”

Dougherty made 16 appearances for the MetroStars in 1998, contributing three goals and nine assists. He currently coaches the men’s team at Palomar College. Living in America has given him “great life experiences as well as the football.”

If he needs a roommate who leaves messes everywhere and doesn’t pay rent, I would love to live in San Diego.

***

Former Red Bulls Academy manager David Longwell has made some big changes at Shrewsbury Town. Despite serving as an assistant coach, he remains the director of the League One club’s youth set-up. The program is now “lightyears ahead” of where it was in the past.

Don’t get me wrong. Shrewsbury is still located in the Milky Way galaxy. But figuratively… it’s in a better place.

***

There are ex-Red Bulls all over the soccer world. Former youth coach Neill Hornby was recently named the head of recruitment at Chesterfield. Recently holding positions at Burton Albion, Barrow, and Ipswich Town, he is tasked with taking the team out of the National League, recently.

***

A former Red Bulls executive is hitting the trail.

Chris Heck is resigning from the Philadelphia 76ers after nine years with the National Basketball Association organization. He joined the team in 2013, rising to the role of president of business operations in September of 2017. The 53-year-old made quite a few changes, notably “creating” the pregame “bell ringing” and post-game victory song.

“I’m excited about [it],” said Heck. “I don’t have another job, but I will start looking at the middle of the summer if not the end of the summer. The business side of me is going to say we took a $300 million franchise and made it $2.7 billion in worth over a nine-year period, which has never been done in history. But on the practical side, just seeing kids everywhere I go wearing Sixers stuff.”

That’s just what the world needs: more Sixers fans.

***

Speaking of former Red Bull executives, Nick Sakiewicz is at the center of the current sale of Angers SCO. He is representing the American investment fund GFC which is attempting to purchase the Ligue 1 club. An “audit team” recently arrived in France, hoping to make sure everything is shipshape prior to a sale between 65 and 75 million euros.

***

Paulo Sousa is out at Flamengo, less than six months after the Brazilian club spirited him away from the Polish national team. The Portuguese manager was shown the door after a poor start to the campaign and some minor controversy. A beloved figure with Mengão (Big ‘Mengo) was doing some public campaigning, perhaps in hopes of the job opening.

“I want to go back [to Flamengo] yes,” Campeonato Brasileiro, Copa Libertadores, Supercopa do Brasil, Recopa Sudamericana, and Campeonato Carioca winner Jorge Jesus said.. “But it’s not just up to me. I can wait until May 20. After that, I have to decide what to do with my life. This team still touches me. It bothers me to see them in trouble. I am sure that if I had continued we would have achieved a long spell of dominance here. We were well ahead of the other clubs.”

Sousa’s people were quite unhappy with the statements. “We have witnessed a deplorable moment,” responded his agent, Hugo Cajuda. “Only someone who is disturbed and desperate can show such a lack of ethics, lack of respect and lack of professionalism. Despite his long history, the aforementioned person manages to climb another level in this shameful episode. It’s a continuation of the ‘I’ always overshadowing the ‘we’ and trying to justify everything. The justifications and excuses should be given to Benfica fans, who saw €150 million spent and zero trophies (when Jesus was in charge)!”

The fans made their voices heard, demanding Sousa’s exit with a public protest featuring the waving of white handkerchiefs. Since being connected to the Red Bulls in the winter of 2013, the manager has made seven stops in total, a true journeyman. While also serving as a “sliding doors” moment for the MLS club, his departure from the Poland national team may also have long-term benefits for Patryk Klimala, whose standing appears to have grown under the recently-hired Czesław Michniewicz.

Considering he has never worked a day for the Red Bulls, Sousa has an increasingly larger impact upon the club’s history. His continued collisions with the dominoes of fate either prove or disprove game theory. I couldn’t tell you which.

***

Stop me if you heard this one before.

Rafael Márquez made a big mistake during his career! As he has been oh-so-hesitant to share with others, the retired midfielder-defender regrets coming to MLS. His time with the Red Bulls made him very, very sad.

“One of the things I regret the most is having gone to play in the United States instead of staying in Europe,” said Márquez (translated with assistance from Oakland bureau chief Juan Mesa). “They [were lazy] and I was the one trying to improve and I got very frustrated. I lived a short time in New York, but I couldn’t, I did suffer a lot.”

In my opinion, perhaps a failure of the early Designated Player contracts was that the acquisitions weren’t made aware that part of their job was to be significantly more talented than teammates. The excessive salaries should have clued them in, but, alas, certain parties failed to get the message. Of course, the knock on Márquez, even at bigger clubs, was that he was less of a transcendent ceiling raiser and more of a superlative complementary piece facilitating greatness.

Here’s a joke that was submitted by Isobel of Pemberton.

I haven’t seen someone hate New York this much since Flavor of Love.

Thank you, Isobel. I remember that show.

***

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.