The New York Red Bulls are a team loaded with talent but no head coach. It is the perfect blueprint for yet another disappointing, trophy-less season.
On-the-field preparations are already being made for the 2013 campaign.
Cleats are laced. Fitness is being tested. Cohesion and team unity are carefully nurtured.
Just not in New York. At least not in the traditional sense.
The enigma that is New York's head coaching position has overshadowed what is—at least on paper—a championship roster.
How Will the New York Red Bulls Fare This Season?
But games are not played on paper. They are played on the field.
And there’s usually a head coach there, or so I’ve heard.
Since the firing of Hans Backe last November, the Red Bulls have done a better job of being linked to potential head coaches than actually hiring one.
Potential suitor No. 1 was Scotland’s own Gary McAllister.
Following the appointment of Andy Roxburgh as Sporting Director, McAllister’s hire seemed inevitable.
It fit the European model that New York has been synonymous with, and his connection with Roxburgh dated back to his days on the Scottish national team.
But the hire never came to fruition. The Red Bulls never extended an offer to McAllister.
Potential suitor No. 2 was Portuguese manager Paulo Sousa.
Rumors swirled earlier this month following Sousa’s departure from Hungarian club Videoton FC. On an episode of his podcast, The Shot, Alexi Lalas cited his sources, calling Sousa “a good bet” to be the next coach of New York.
An American assistant for Sousa was also in line.
Former Red Bulls star and current US Soccer youth technical director Claudio Reyna was offered a position as Sousa’s top assistant.
But in the past week, New York has been rejected more times than Ty Lawson in the paint.
Reyna has declined the Red Bulls’ offer (via soccerbyives.net).
And now, reports out of Portugal have forced New York back to the drawing board.
Reyna’s decision to turn down the opportunity to be an assistant for the Red Bulls is surmountable. But Sousa’s decision is not.
Not in the short term.
New York does not benefit from rejection or hearsay. Those two appear to be the only options at this point.
The latest rumor has named Eric Wynalda, Paul Lambert and Teitur Thordarson as the next batch of potential suitors.
At the moment, that is mere speculation. When it comes to New York, what isn’t at this point?
Whatever the scuttlebutt may be, Roxburgh is in no rush to officially name the 12th head coach in franchise history.
We’ve been talking to a number of people, a lot with really interesting backgrounds and we’re still in discussions. We appreciate the fans’ patience, but we don’t want to rush to judgement here. There will be an announcement soon about it.
The front office is not rushing to judgement, but it did not refrain from overhauling its roster.
Roxburgh and Gérard Houllier spent the offseason conducting an intemperate number of transactions. But they forgot the one with the most consequence: naming a new head coach.
The 2013 version of the Red Bulls is essentially a hand-picked team with no regard to tactics, formation or style of play.
Whoever New York selects as its next head coach will be greeted with this message on day one: "Welcome. This is your team. Now go win with it."
It is in direct contrast to what the Los Angeles Galaxy—another big-market team with money to spend—have done since Bruce Arena’s arrival.
It is a blueprint that is doomed to fail in MLS.
Many have forgotten the turmoil that surrounded LA before Arena’s arrival. The Galaxy were a team without a playoff berth since 2005.
All the money and talent could not keep LA from finishing next-to-last in the league in 2008.
But in the four years that followed, Arena led the Galaxy to three MLS Cup Finals. Two titles have been lifted in the process.
Those championships were not “bought” as some have alluded to. Vital pieces to LA's championship form were drafted and acquired to mirror Arena’s vision.
Omar Gonzalez, AJ DeLaGarza and Mike Magee were not the lavish additions the Galaxy are typically lambasted over.
The Galaxy have proven it takes more than money and household names to win an MLS Cup. Stability at the top is a characteristic of a championship team.
As of now, it is not a characteristic New York has in spades.
That’s what separates the four-time champions in LA from the empty trophy case in New York. (No, the Emirates Cup does not count as a legitimate trophy.)
True, the Red Bulls are not the only team entering the preseason with no head coach. Toronto FC bears the distinct "honor” of joining the Red Bulls in that regard.
But even Kevin Payne has an exact timetable for Ryan Nelsen’s arrival.
Ryan Nelsen to leave QPR and join Toronto FC permanently on Feb. 1: bit.ly/USr7KC— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) January 23, 2013
Toronto FC has answers New York does not.
But for every report written on the Red Bulls' inability to hire a head coach, there is always one consistent caveat: Mike Petke is still the interim head coach.
Many have argued that it is in New York’s best interest to remove Petke’s interim tag. New York's bitter rival DC United can attest to the success of having a former MLS veteran lead your team.
But as Ives Galarcep points out, that move may soon be one of necessity rather than innovation.
Still think Petke is very much still better as an assistant than head coach, but RBNY's inability to land a HC could leave them w/no choice— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) January 22, 2013
The MLS season is 36 days away, New York.
Whether it's Petke, a European commodity or your local AYSO volunteer, the time to make a hire is now.
Better late than never.
Follow Eduardo on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics. Follow @Mendez_FC