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Talent drain in Harrison
Why Gerhard Struber needs to be the Red Bulls' biggest star
Shep Messing said something on the Red Bulls broadcast that stuck out to me on Saturday night, as the Red Bulls lost 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City at home. It was along the lines of: “Gerhard Struber is the Red Bulls’ Designated Player.”
For a club that once touted Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, it’s been a long road that has taken them to the point where the roster mostly relies on players brought up from their USL side, loans from Salzburg and inter-league signings or trades.
This process started all the way back in 2015, when Jesse Marsch was hired as head coach and the fans almost protested the way we saw some in England do this week.
Of course they would soon forgot why they were so angry as Marsch helped lead RBNY to the Supporters’ Shield in 2015, starting a four-year run under the Princeton grad (with the last half season under Chris Armas) that saw the club be one of the most successful in MLS during the regular season. That success did not carry over to the playoffs, but you can’t be successful in the playoffs without first having a good regular season.
Those teams were able to develop stars from within, mostly relying on domestic players, though a couple low-cost foreign signings ended up being a major part of the core (BWP, Kemar Lawrence).
The problem the team now faces is that they have not been able to continue this pattern.
There has yet to be a player who has come up from Red Bulls II that has made an impact similar to Tyler Adams or Aaron Long. Just look at Omir Fernandez, Sean Davis, Brian White, Cristian Casseres and Kyle Duncan. None have progressed into above average MLS players yet.
The goalkeeper position has become a revolving door instead of the most reliable position on the team. Tim Parker was shipped out of town. No one has been able to replace Kemar Lawrence. All of this makes it hard as RBNY search for players on the foreign market.
Here are the Red Bulls’ foreign signings since the start of the 2018 season through the end of last season: Marc Rzatkowski, Cristian Casseres, Kaku, Andreas Ivan, Mathias Jorgensen, Josh Sims, David Jensen, Mandela Egbo, Josh Pendant, Dru Yearwood, Samuel Tetteh.
How many of those were a success? Maybe just Casseres. Kaku and Rzatkowski both had moments but I would say neither fulfilled their potential in Harrison. Kaku is obviously in the process of initiating one of the most hostile exits from a club that we’ve seen in MLS outside of Cyle Larin.
The Red Bulls are hoping to solve that problem this season, as Gerhard Struber helped to overhaul the roster, mostly bringing in unproven players like Fabio, Cameron Harper, Wikelman Carmona and Youba Diarra.
If we were to go just by the front office’s track record, it’s clear that betting on most of these signings to succeed would be a risky proposition. This is why it’s so important that Gerhard Struber be one of the best coaches in MLS, which is what he is getting paid to be.