Questions to answer in MLS preseason camp: New York Red Bulls

2 Comments

(Through the week we’ll look at three Major League Soccer clubs per day, considering what they need to accomplish and what questions deserve answers during preseason training camps. Opening day in MLS is March 2.)

The New York Red Bulls are one of Major League Soccer’s most storied franchises. And by storied, I mean there sure are a lot of stories about the squad, most of them negative. It’s been a, um, tumultuous off-season in Harrison, New Jersey, with the parent company jetting in from Austria, cleaning house, and generally shaking things up in the most dramatic way possible. Plenty of faces from last year’s up and down and down again season are out, replaced by new men hoping they can play with Thierry Henry and a new manager hoping to simply control the mercurial Frenchman.

This isn’t necessarily a make or break year for the Red Bulls, but it’s starting to feel like that a little bit. Or perhaps that’s just the smell of desperation wafting out of that beautiful space-age bubble just off NJ Transit. Onward we move, to three questions that will make all the difference in 2013.

  • Is Mike Petke the answer as coach?

After attempting to hire people including Gary McAllister, Paulo Sousa, Fonzie, and Aladdin, the new management settled on interim manager Petke, the club’s all-time leader in games played with 169. Although he has exactly zero head coaching experience, he served under Hans Backe as an assistant last season and knows the team. (Plus, he’s one of five new MLS head coaches in the league this year who have never been in charge of an MLS team. Can you say “fresh blood”?) Petke’s success or failure likely depends upon his relationship with Henry, who can be a consummate teammate or a consummate jerk or both in the span of 15 seconds, and who controls the locker room with his presence. It’s a nearly impossible task for any coach, but it will be interesting to see how the early days play out. Petke has the advantage of knowing and working with Henry, which should help, and he’s a better choice than the other options the ownership group tried to hire because he understands the league. But honestly, getting through to late-career Henry might be a bridge too far for any coach not named Wenger.

  • Does stability exist in Harrison?

15(!) players on the New York Red Bulls roster at the end of 2012 will not be back at the start of 2013, courtesy of MLSSoccer.com managing editor and all-around good guy Jonah Freedman. (Be nice, he’s a Lakers fan.) That’s an astonishing figure and it needs to stop. Do it once, get it done, then build again. The new-look Red Bulls need a bit of patience — not the easiest thing for a team that needs to win now. But the owners over in Austria need to understand that the best teams in MLS build from within. It’s not a quick-fix, throw-money-at-the-problem type of place. The organization has taken some strong steps with its youth system and hopefully those will start to pay off. And having money, as the Red Bulls clearly do, is never a bad thing. But it’s not the only thing. 2013 is for patience. (Yeah, right.) But let’s start with Petke, the team’s 13th coach during a span in which no other team has had more than nine. Give the man a chance.

  • Is this finally the year?

They were one of the league’s best teams at points throughout the last two seasons. They have a strong base with Henry, Dax McCarty, a returning Ryan Meara, Heath Pearce, Connor Lade, etc. They have the money to go out and get another DP and/or some new players. The talent, as always, is there. But can the Red Bulls finally put together a complete season instead of just bits and pieces of one?

MORE in ProSoccerTalk’s preseason camp series:

Up Next: Philadelphia Union

Not so fast? New York Red Bulls deny McAllister offered coaching job

1 Comment

Remember all those hours ago when it seemed MLS was down to one head coaching vacancy? Well go back to that point, McFly, hit the delete button, and pretend we never thought the New York Red Bulls’ coaching search was over.

The Harrison-based team has told MLSSoccer.com that no offer’s been extended to Gary McAllister, an clarification seemingly made to clear the decks. Previous reports said the former Scottish international would be confirmed later this week, but after one call with the league’s website, the news is in doubt.

While this would normally be a he said, she said between outlets with different sources, in this case, one outlet is the league’s website. It’s practically a press release:

A source familiar with the negotiations told MLSsoccer.com that the club has not extended an offer to McAllister (above, left), the former Scottish international who has been rumored as Backe’s replacement since the Red Bulls bowed out of the Eastern Conference semifinals in November.

The Red Bulls are not expected to make an announcement about the coaching search this week as reported, according to the source. The club had no official comment when contacted by MLSsoccer.com

Say what you want about the league’s main news outlet having such close ties to the business itself, but when they post a story like this, their source   wins. Don’t expect McAllister to be announced this week (unless this is just New York throwing us off the scent).

New York Red Bulls ready to move on Gary McAllister as new coach

4 Comments

UPDATE: New York denies McAllister’s received offer

The number of head coaching vacancies in Major League Soccer is about to be cut in half. That’s because Gary McAllister, long-linked with the job in Harrison, appears set to be named head coach of the New York Red Bulls.

An announcement could happen as early as today, with a formal unveiling expected later this week.

McAllister’s last long term head coaching job was with Leeds United in 2008. With only caretaker stints at Aston Villa (where he was an assistant) between then a now, there’s little to say what he’ll bring to Red Bull area.

He’s Scottish, has a long history in the English game (playing for Leicester City, Leeds, Coventry City, and Liverpool), and is being brought in by two men (Andy Roxburgh and Gerard Houllier) hiring him based on his time in British football. Draw whatever stereotyping conclusions you want from that. They may be correct.

Given the wait-and-see approach we’ll have to take regarding McAllister’s on-field contributions, the most interesting parts of this story are …

  • a.) Now only Montreal is left without a coach. At last rumble, Impact owner Joey Saputo’s list was down to two candidates.
  • b.) FOX Soccer personality and U.S. Men’s National Team legend Eric Wynalda had talked with the team about the job. That Roxburgh and Houllier went in a different direction shows they have no aspirations to make my life as easy as possible.
  • c.) McAllister initially wanted $2 million to take the job, which sounds perfectly reasonable for an coach with limited managerial experience moving to a league with financial constraints that’s notoriously hard on imported coaches.

Steve’s talked about the foreign coach phenomenon, while I tend to take every opportunity I can to denounce Anglophilia in North American soccer culture. So on the surface, there is a lot for PST to dislike about this move.

But McAllister is a respected name, and not only because of his 23-year playing career or his 57 caps for Scotland. He has earned enough coaching credibility that a boss’s job was inevitable. That he’s elected to take one in Major League Soccer rather than descending the Football League’s ladder could prove a good lifestyle and career move. Success at a club with New York’s profile would be noticed back home (thanks to Thierry Henry).

Whether McAllister finds that success will depend on his willingness to adapt the the landscape. It’s been two short years since an Englishman led a club to a title (Gary Smith with Colorado in 2010). That will be the expectation in New York.