At some point last year a few soccer journos were sitting around, talking over a soda pop or two. It’s what we do best; you gotta play to your strengths.
The subject wheel finally landed on the New York Red Bulls and someone (sorry I can’t remember who … proper credit and all) said, “Oh, the stories are there, and they’ll all start coming out soon enough.”
That day has apparently arrived.
During Red Bulls media day Monday in Harrison, former manager Hans Backe and (more than likely) Rafa Marquez became the favorite punching bags as guys like Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill (pictured) and Heath Pearce began pulling back the curtain on why such a fabulously talented team never found its potential, hovering habitually between “average” and “just above average.”
Backe was, let’s say, a “less respected” figure inside the locker room. (In fairness, it is impossible to know who was making some of the high-profile decisions, Backe or someone above him.)
Said defender Heath Pearce, who was advocating new manager Mike Petke, but saying a lot in his comparison:
If guys can jog around training and get away with it, then what’s going to happen in the games where you need guys in the 90th minute to make plays? From the ground level up, accountability is going to be a major factor for us. Them enabling us to hold each other to that level, with (the coaching staff’s) support, is going to be a big thing for us.”
Advocacy for Petke was a big theme. The players love his dedication the job and the organization. Again, you wonder is that’s more about Petke or more about the previous regime?
And then this: Credit to Cahill, who hasn’t been in the United States for a full year, for already figuring out what inexplicably escapes so very many men in MLS corner offices: that American coaches have a better opportunity to grasp the peculiarities and vagaries unique to MLS. I’ve been banging that drum for years.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what happened last season. It seemed very open and messy. There was no stability, whereas now there’s stability. There’s Petke.”
Said Cahill of the search that wandered first in Europe – and where serendipity may have ultimately intervened, saving the Red Bulls from themselves when the chosen coaching accent couldn’t come to terms or couldn’t get a visa or whatever:
I just kept hearing names about European coaches. It’s hard to bring in European coaches that understand the league and the structure … what’s going to be best to build a team.”
There’s even more in the piece from Brian Straus linked above, including some shots at Dwayne De Rosario, who was even more to the point in assessing his brief run at Red Bull Arena.