Ali Curtis lays out his “vision” for the New York Red Bulls

Curtis De Grandpre Red Bulls

Empire of Soccer caught up with New York Red Bulls General Manager, Marc de Grandpre, and Sporting Director, Ali Curtis, to speak about the current state of the team.  In this second part of our series, Curtis delves into the finer points of his much-talked about “vision” for the team

By now, you have heard about “The Vision:” Sporting Director Ali Curtis’ seven-and-a-half-year-in-the-making, 300 page plan for the future of the New York Red Bulls.

But what exactly does it mean?  And how will it change the way Red Bull does business?

Curtis spoke to EOS about his still-forming blueprint for the future of New York’s original MLS franchise.

“It’s always been trying to create a single identity that is clear and transparent not just for our players, but for our staff, our fans and our community,” Curtis tells EOS.  “It starts with that identity and our vision, which is to build a lifelong connection between the club and community that transcends the sport. We have a mission of building a world class environment for our players and staff.”

In fact, Curtis has a four-point plan intended to improve the club, both on and off the field.  Before he can implement his vision, however, the former MLS executive has taken to reviewing the jobs of several team employees to make sure he has the right people on the bus to move forward.

“Success is achieved as a team,” he explains. “Bringing in staff, a head coach that embraces that, a style of play that is high tempo and high pressure that embraces who we are, and really some of those key areas we want to drive success in.”

That is what makes the hiring of Jesse Marsch as the club’s new coach so important.  By letting go of Mike Petke and bringing on the former Montreal Impact boss, Curtis has, in one fell swoop, aligned the key players in his sporting department behind his new philosophy.  Therein, Curtis hopes to “create strategic goals and have measurable objectives” within the Red Bull organization to achieve long term health and prosperity.

To do so, he is focusing in on four all-encompassing umbrellas.

“It’s our culture,” he begins.  “What is happening with the culture of our club?  It’s our community. What are we doing and how are we investing ourselves in the community? It’s the league. It’s MLS. How do we measure success in MLS? And player development: how do we view player development and how do we assure hitting key milestones in terms of driving key success short term and long term?

“These bold statements that build a club that individuals and organizations want to be a part of — that is a great statement but what does it mean? We are creating key measure led in those areas to understand we are achieving those milestones, not simply on a short term basis, but on a long term basis.”

While those categories are wide ranging, the direction in each area can fundamentally change how Red Bull does business.

Amongst the ideas in Curtis’ plan:

  • Discussing mandates on the number of homegrown players signed each year.
  • Discussing set minutes to be allocated for homegrown players within the first team.
  • Bridging the gap between the young academy and first team through the implementation of a USL Pro side. “Having a platform that is linked directly to Major League Soccer is very important,” he insists.
  • Setting bars for success on the field, not just on a year to year basis. “Everybody wants to win MLS Cup,” he explains. “Everybody wants to make the playoffs. What does that mean for the Red Bulls on a 12 month cycle, a three year cycle, on a five year cycle?”

The community aspect, Curtis explains, stems from a club wide effort at transparency.  “What we need to do in a sophisticated way is outline bold statements of who we are and who we want to be and then create measurable goals so everyone in our community knows who we are and what we are trying to achieve — from staff to players and fans,” he said.

The effort, in its entirety, is then aimed at changing the club’s culture; an identity that has been steeped in negativity for most of the Metrostars/Red Bulls 20 years of existence.

The consternation from the fanbase, however, stems from the recent successes of the club.  While the past two years under Mike Petke have not been perfect, they have certainly been successful, both on and off the field.  The team won its first major trophy, the Supporters’ Shield, back in 2013, and followed that feat with a Conference Final appearance in 2014; their first since 2008.

That success was indication enough for the common fan to believe the organization was on the right track.  While success was being achieved on field, General Manager Marc de Grandpre led the off-field transformation with a highly touted “return to your roots” program aimed at restoring, and honoring, the history of the Metrostars.

That program remains part of another long term vision of the club; De Grandpre’s five year plan. As fate would have it, the hallmarks of both blueprints are, as De Grandpre says, “in lockstep,” with the Red Bull GM adding his own unique objectives into the equation.

“Ali firmly believes in community, and connecting the club to the community is part of our five year plan,” de Grandpre tells EOS.  “It is to make sure the Red Bulls become part of the fabric of the local community, New Jersey, Manhattan, New York, Westchester and wherever we are. That is a pivotal point for us. Ali believes in club and community and you will see a lot more of our players active in the community.

“Embracing our history, it’s our 20th season and that will be important looking forward,” he continues. “Expanding the stadium (usage). We already have the best stadium in the league. Over the course of the next five years, we want it make sure we keep improving the experience of our fans week in and week out. Driving much more revenue through the building outside of just MLS matches. Those are all things we have to be aligned, both in the sporting and business side, because it involves realization of the building and the pitch use puts constraints on scheduling.”

With lofty goals and fundamental change in mind, De Grandpre believes the Red Bulls have the right team in place to finally bring stability — true stability — to the club.

“We wanted someone who clearly understood MLS, who has been a part of the fabric of soccer in North America, who played here and was successful here, not just on the pitch but off the field, who could really help our youth development,” De Grandpre said of new hire, Ali Curtis.  “Ali and I are in lock step on how we can move this thing forward.

“We are really excited about the passion, his vision and the style of play Jesse [Marsch] embraces. It matches with everything Ali wants and that is why Ali chose to hire Jesse. We are 100% committed behind that decision.

“My vision has always been to build a lifelong connection between the clubs and community that transcends the sport,” Curtis notes.  “We have that opportunity with the Red Bulls. We are in the greatest market in the world, we have great fans and really have a great club. It is my responsibly to provide the best environment for players and staff to thrive and be successful.”

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  • Anthony

    Garbage, all of it.

  • Absolute Disgrace

    FU Ali Curtis. You have zero business using the word “WE”. Go F yourself.

  • Anonymous

    And nowhere does he say why this required, or benefited from the removal of Mike Petke

  • MLS Fan Free Agent

    “My vision has always been to build a lifelong connection between the clubs and community that transcends the sport,” So we decided to fire the one person who has the longest and strongest connection to the community…..I just can’t bring myself to support this drink, I mean organization any longer.

  • Zzzzz corporate snooze buzzwords zzzzzz MBA

  • #RedBullOut

    My vision involves a club with black and red stripes, an identity distinct from any beverage, and a guy named “not Ali Curtis” running the show

  • the Ali Curtis comedy hour is more apropos

  • Uhm…

    I won’t rest until we have reclaimed this club for our own.

  • Robert Kovacs

    “What we need to do in a sophisticated way is outline bold statements of who we are” …. We are Mike Petke you miserable piece of ****.

  • Smith

    Here’s’s the Smith family plan:

    We’re not going back to Backstabbing Ali is gone.

  • Had to wipe the past clean to connect to the past.

    You want youth development high a youth development director – duh

  • This strikes me as utter nonsense. Curtis makes no mention of fans. These two clowns are so arrogant that they think they don’t have to listen to their customers and that they can completely alienate the entire fan base because they have a plan. Eventually they’ll go crawling out into the night, either because Red Bull wakes up to damage that they are doing to their brand reputation or because the seats at the arena are empty. No one is ever gong to pay to see Ali Curtis.

    • Jeff

      “Curtis makes no mention of fans.”

      He mentions fans no less than FOUR times just in this story, but go ahead and let your rage cloud all rational thought…

      “but for our staff, our fans and our community,”

      “from staff to players and fans,”

      “we have great fans and really have a great club.”

      “improving the experience of our fans week in and week out.”

  • Bill

    Do these two have any PR experience? The more they say, the worse things come across. It’s like a dark comedy sequence, almost.

    The only specifics in these “plans” are the priority placed on homegrowns and hope to integrate USL Pro as a primary development path. And, alas, those are hardly unique challenges. Every club in the league has them circled. The rest is boilerplate “we need a mission statement” gobbledygook.

    The fixation on “transcending” the sport reads baldly as “promoting the Red Bull brand above all else”.

    The nods to history are both offensive and mind boggling, having just let go the most successful coach in club history, who just so happened to embody the very connection to the club’s past and “localness” that Curtis & MdG deem so elusive and yet integral.

  • Bill A

    “Umbrella #1: What is happening with the culture of the club??

    Asks the outside hire who decimated the current culture and obviously failed to see the ramifications of that. Is part of his plan to figuratively burn the club to the ground before it can be rebuilt in his image?

    Also, most of the “statements” on the “vision” plan listed above are questions.

  • brian

    That’s great how cognizant he is of the need to connect with the community and supporters. What’s baffling is that he was so ignorant of the importance to this club of Mike Petke and the deep connection and passion he has for the club and helped inspire in the supporters. This despite the awful re-branding to Red Bull ten years ago.

    Many of us continue to have trouble supporting this brand but with Petke leading the charge and getting results there was real forward momentum, for the first time in 20 years. There was true love building and expanding. For me that has come crashing down.

    This guy would be great for a brand new club likely, but for a club with 20 years of history behind it he’s been dreadful. His actions speak much louder than his dissertation, and extensive “research.” He casually dismissed Petke to replace him with someone with no connection to this team whatsoever and close to no experience. A guy who has lived high on the hog of MLS and been out of coaching for two years, two years that were the best this team has ever had.

    It’s despicable really, and now they spout their lofty plan and expect the supporters to embrace them, totally ignorant of what those words actually mean.

  • doug

    What a load of bullshit !!!

  • Brian

    Wow. This all sounds like a lot of consultant-speak. I’m sure Curtis is young, enthusiastic and smart and just brimming with ideas. But I have an idea — rather than focus on theoretical concepts that will not do a whole lot for improving performance or developing a loyal fan base, why don’t you get the best players possible and win? Win, and no one cares about transcending the sport, developing deep ties with the community and all that. Win and fans will love you. Lose, and none of that will matter. You will have a wonderful stadium with lots of empty seats.

  • JP

    **** YOU Curtis

  • Carl

    Corporate Red BULL speak … Ali and Jesse go find another team to unsettle … all this talk about stability is a little cynical, to say the least!

    • Jim F

      Ali Curtis’ 300pg plan –

      pg 1 – get rid of most successful coach in history
      pg 2 – alienate every fan you have
      pg 3 – hire your buddy as coach in an impossible position after 1 and 2
      pg 4 – miss out on a great non DP signing – Mix
      pg 5 – miss out on top signing of “homegrown” Altidore
      pg 6 – look for any last scraps of the organization to screw up that have not been already trashed through the years
      pg 7-300 – blah blah blah, some statistics to back up middling player acquisitions that only best friend new coach understands, blah blah blah blah

      Appendix – moving forward to make NYCFC look even better relatively speaking into the future

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