This is your New York Red Bulls offseason report for the month of December.
At the start of the Red Bulls' offseason, I made a list of five things that the team had to do before the much-anticipated start of the 2012 season. Those five things were: Get attractive home jerseys, sell Rafa Marquez, keep Henry happy, test Ream in the market and find a playmaker.
How is the team doing on the five objectives I assigned to them? Click through this slideshow to see.
It was a step in the right direction when the New York Red Bulls released their new and improved buttonless jerseys last month to the public. The previous buttoned yet collarless uniform made the jersey seem like it couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be classy or casual, leading to an indecisive and unattractive outfit.
The new jersey features less red stripes, and its simplicity is what makes it more wearable than past versions. However, given the organization’s necessity to over-brand the Red Bull logo front and center, the jersey can never really be more exciting or thrilling than it is today (for example, no USMNT stripe across the chest or Celtic rings).
Yes, it is an improvement, and considering the jersey’s limitations, it may be the best we see for a while.
It was almost an early Christmas for Red Bulls fans when news broke that Marquez was exploring contracts in Brazil and Mexico. It seemed as though the relationship tensions that partially spoiled last season could very well be cut loose by the new year, yet all rumors have silently faded in the recent weeks.
Then, after Mexican powerhouse Atlas was rumored to be interested in the controversial defender, GM Erik Soler had this to say, “I have not been approached by Rafa, or any other clubs. I had a long chat with Rafa; he’s not going anywhere, or asked to go anywhere. He’s coming back to start the season on Jan. 16.”
The dream of a Rafa-free, salary-replenished, DP-slot open 2012 is dead. In other words, only three more months until we get to hear the New York faithful boo one of its own again.
Let’s get things straight: The New York Red Bulls do not own Thierry Henry. Thierry Henry owns the New York Red Bulls.
The amount of dependency that the Red Bulls placed on their star last year created this strange relationship where Henry does in fact carry more weight than the rest of the franchise. Why else would the Red Bulls agree to let Henry play for their opponents Arsenal at the Emirates Cup when they had the chance to win the tournament? (Note: He wasn’t allowed to play for Arsenal by FIFA rules, but New York had apparently accepted the proposal.) Why else would the club let him skip away games on turf after he voiced his disapproval of the dreadful surface?
The New York front office will do anything to keep Henry happy because, quite frankly, Henry is what is keeping this club afloat.
So now, the organization must make a difficult decision on what they want their star DP doing in the few months leading to up to March. Arsenal has officially offered the Red Bulls a a two-month loan deal for Henry to cure the Gunners’ forward vacancies, but at 34, can the French legend’s body really take 11 months of professional football?
Evidently, it is a difficult decision for Erik Soler and company.
Do they let Henry go back to Arsenal (assuming he would like to give the EPL one more shot before hanging up the boots) and risk a devastating injury or keep him locked up and suppress his Arsenal dreams? Personally, I think keeping a moody Henry content heading into the season is worth the risk of an injury, but the Red Bull FO might feel differently.
Objective: Pending Decision
There is no doubt that this objective has been completed. Struggling EPL side Bolton is preparing a bid for the supposedly transfer-listed Red Bulls defender in the next week, but this might not be the best deal for the organization. Bolton’s offer would be no more than $2 million, which is simply too weak a proposal for the Red Bulls to give away their high-potential center-back.
With Marquez being capable of walking out on the club at any time, can the Red Bulls really afford to give away their other starting CB for just $2 million if they actually want to compete in 2012?
All gaffes and mistakes taken into account, Tim Ream is worth more than that amount to the Red Bulls.
The Red Bulls have dangled Tim Ream like I asked for this offseason, but they should think twice before letting their star defender depart in the next couple of weeks. Acknowledge the field’s offers, keep him for the season, and wait until next winter (when he may get a work permit and be worth more) until you rebuild the back line.
After painfully watching former CAM Dwayne De Rosario light up the MLS during the second half of the season, many NYRB fans expected the organization to search for a playmaker of their own this winter. However, the Red Bull’s offseason has been quiet to say the least, and the arrival of a game-changing playmaker doesn’t seem to be in even the earliest of stages.
We all know that the Red Bulls tend to favor summer transfers over winter moves, but the lack of action truly is disconcerting. To gain the trust of the loyal fanbase that has been jerked around and fooled the last 12 months, the Red Bulls organization must change their ways and either A) make a trade; B) find a young talent in Central America; or C) make a monstrous bid for an old European veteran this transfer window.
Finding the future playmaker through the superdraft is unlikely due to the Red Bulls' lack of a first-round pick, and the Ronaldinho rumor has less weight to it than a feather. That leaves the three options above as the only possible ways to gain that “maestro” in the middle.
Here is some analysis:
The only players worth trading for that could do Dax Mccarty’s central midfield position for a reasonable price are: Nick Labrocca (not happening; Chivas USA’s only weapon), Diego Chara (possibly, but not for a DP salary) and Brad Evans (most probable due to lack of playing time in Seattle, but worth a trade?). I don’t see any of these deals happening, meaning Central American talent is the way to go.
The best CAM suited for this job would have been Mexican international Christian Bermudez. With 178 league caps in Mexico at just 24, Bermudez was experienced and young enough to warrant a contract from the Red Bulls. However, Club America beat the Red Bulls to the Mexican playmaker, and he is now locked up for a few more years.
The Red Bulls must now find a player (maybe Jose Francisco Torres) who would be willing to come to the States, accept a non-DP salary, and significantly help the club. That is one difficult trifecta to find in a player.
C) Transfer Offer
You can immediately cross Ronaldinho, Lampard and Pirlo off the list. None of those players are coming to NY anytime soon due to a variety of reasons. The only players I can think of who have expressed interest in New York and are willing to be stolen away are Ze Roberto and Florent Malouda.
Malouda has threatened to leave Chelsea due to lack of playing time for over a month now, and could be persuaded by fellow Frenchman Henry to come to the club. Ze Roberto is playing for Qatari club Al Gharafa, but as we know, those contracts are rarely ever completed to the end. Both players would carry a hefty price tag, but would certainly change the dynamic of the team for the better.
Over-bidding for Ze Roberto or Malouda seems unlikely due to the Red Bulls' lack of cap room, which means Central America is the way to go. This path, however, includes lots of research and scouting that the club simply is not used to. That being said, this objective is far from being completed.