The remaking of the New York Red Bulls gathers speed. That is to say it gets faster, but it is difficult to work out whether this headlong rush for change has any direction to it.
Any intelligent direction, I mean. There are various possibilities, none of which exactly recommends itself as an example of brilliant planning.
There is, for a start the possibility that the Bulls management has decided that Americans don’t know anything about soccer, that all the soccer wisdom in the world resides in Europe, and in Northern Europe at that. So, at the beginning of the season (Feb. 28) we saw the sudden (significantly, that word crops up repeatedly) firing of assistant coach Richie Williams, along with goalkeeper coach Des McAleenan (an American resident at least since 1988). The reasons? The Bulls had “decided to go a different direction with our coaching staff” said general manager Erik Soler. A standard PR banality that could mean anything, an empty, almost insulting evasion in place of an explanation. Around the same time another longtime American employee, Jeff Agoos -- the team’s Sporting Director -- also left the club.
Something similar has happened within the past week, with the news that two more longtime Red Bull employees, Ernesto Motta and Robert Sierra, have been -- suddenly -- “let go.” Motta and Sierra were the Latino, Spanish-speaking arm of the club, the link with the local Hispanic communities.
This move, we are told, is part of a “reorganization within the club.” Evidently, a reorganization that downgrades the importance of Hispanic fans. That does not come as a surprise. If Hispanic fans meant anything at all to the club, that would be reflected in on the field.
It is not. Ever since the arrival of the Swede Hans Backe the club has been moving steadily away from Hispanic players, from any sign of Hispanic influence. At the press conference introducing Backe, I asked whether his arrival meant -- along with the presence of Soler, who is Norwegian -- that we would now have a Scandinavian, even Norwegian style team? As I recall, my question was framed in a way that left no doubt that I considered such a possibility to be a disaster. Soler answered, denying such a happening, indeed, scoffing at the idea.
Well, now. We have Soler and Backe. We have Backe’s assistant Jans Halvor Halvorsen, a Norwegian, who replaced Goran Aral, a Swede. On the field, we have the Estonian Joel Lindpere, the Finn Teemu Tainio, and the Norwegian Jan Gunnar Solli. Recently joined by the German goalkeeper Frank Rost. READ MORE