I shouldn’t have to prime New York Red Bulls fans on the club’s transfer strategy. Pursuing their own version of the broader Red Bull soccer ethos, a constant churn of young talent has seen mixed reactions from supporters even as the team has been able to maintain a relatively competitive level in the league.
But with the New York squad overhauled last year by Gerhard Struber and now-departed sporting chief Kevin Thelwell and climbing up the table in 2022, this summer could be a rare moment where the Red Bulls are largely content and situated personnel-wise. But taking nothing for granted with this club, here are a few names who could potentially be on the move:
Cristian Cásseres Jr
Though he only turned 22 in this year’s preseason, Cristian Cásseres has been part of the New York spine for almost five years now. The tenacious, versatile midfielder has been one of the team’s most consistent standouts during the Gerhard Struber era, and his emergence in the Venezuela national team has raised his stock even further.
But despite this trajectory, there has been a conspicuous lack of transfer rumors around Cásseres in recent months and even years, despite having what OaM transfer sentinel Ross Haley describes as an ideal skillset to serve as a young, rotational #8 midfielder on the fringe of a top European squad. Outside of thin links to English clubs in recent months, Cásseres has been largely untouched by the muppet mill, even as his younger teammate and countryman Wikelman Carmona has seen substantial smoke.
But Tom Bogert of MLS hinted on Tuesday morning that Cásseres could be one of the more likely players in the league to move on this summer. Though Cásseres has played a key role in New York’s promising start to 2022, the revival of Frankie Amaya, the continued growth of Dru Yearwood, and the emergence of Daniel Edelman has seen the Red Bulls develop something of a surplus in central midfield. Perhaps Denis Hamlett and the Red Bull braintrust will see this summer as the moment to finally cash in on Cásseres.
It’s been a strange journey for Caden Clark ever since his transfer from New York to sibling club RB Leipzig was confirmed last spring. Coming down with appendicitis shortly after the move was finalized, Clark went from being the precocious engine of the team’s attack to entering a purgatory of fitness setbacks and tactical shifts that have limited his playing time and led Leipzig to loan him back to New York.
Clark’s temporary stay in MLS this year has not gone well, with the midfielder earning only substitute minutes thus far and an injury with the United States under-20 side setting him back further. Last month OaM reported that Club Brugge was at the front of the line as various European clubs jockey to potentially secure a new loan for a disgruntled Clark seeking to leave the New York setup. Clark scored a characteristically eye-catching goal for the Red Bulls II reserve team over the weekend, but the ambitious Minnesotan could still see greener grass outside of New York in the near future.
Here’s a name some of the older OaM readers out there might remember: Ashley Fletcher.
The towering English target forward arrived on loan from then-Premier League club Watford in March with a decent amount of fanfare. But a combination of lineup rotation and injury setbacks have seen Fletcher struggle to launch in New York. Fletcher has not appeared for the Red Bulls since being subbed from the eventual 2-1 victory over Chicago in April, dealing with what Gerhard Struber has described as a muscle strain he has received unsuccessful painkilling injections for. Fletcher is scoreless in his six appearances, with an “assist” for an own goal winner in New England as his only meaningful contribution thus far.
With Watford now preparing for life in the second division, Fletcher is reportedly back on their radar. Fletcher’s initial New York loan expires next month as English preseason begins, and renewing it would require a Designated Player-level salary outlay. Gerhard Struber has largely switched to formations deploying a single striker, and with Patryk Klimala slowly hitting good form and Tom Barlow proving to be a serviceable second option, Fletcher could see his New York stint come to an anticlimactic close soon.
Though far from a household name even in the most die-hard Metro circles — indeed there are no game photos of him in the galleries SB Nation subscribes to — Bento Estrela could be one of the more significant recent products of the Red Bulls academy. Still only 16 years old after signing a professional deal at 14 ahead of last season, the tall, athletic midfielder has received raves from academy observers and is now a regular in the prestigious Portuguese youth national team setup.
New York’s initial signing of Estrela appeared to be through the prism of preparing for a gold rush by Portuguese clubs and their hyperactive talent factories. Maybe Estrela makes a breakthrough at reserve level with Red Bulls II this summer, but a Benfica or Porto swooping in for him at a profit for New York should not come as a surprise.