Red Bulls Sporting Director Curtis takes pragmatic approach to team building


While the rhetoric and grandiose plans were surely missing, New York Red Bulls’ new Sporting Director, Ali Curtis, shared a club vision that served as a stark departure from the big-talking days of his predecessors.

Curtis fielded a series of inquiries from beat reporters, peppering him on his plans for Designated Players, a USL Pro side, and his general philosophy when it comes to team building.  The 36-year-old former MLS executive deftly deflected each question, instead focusing on the importance of bringing a collaborative, team vision to the sporting department.

“My philosophy has always been success is achieved as a team,” Curtis said. “It’s a team first mentality. For us at Red Bulls, it is important to finalize a plan that incorporates a very sophisticated and innovative process and approach where all factions of the club are functioning in unison … but also in a way that we can effectively communicate with Red Bull global and take advantage of the global platform the organization provides.”

That process begins with an inventory of the current talent in the franchise, both on and off the field.

“Its a time to evaluate the club,” Curtis explained. “I want to sit down with every individual, every staff member, every player.”

Unlike former Red Bull Directors like Erik Soler and Andy Roxburgh who entered the team with soaring ideas and a specific agenda, Curtis says he wants to make Red Bulls’ growth and direction a collaborative effort. “One of my philosophy’s is success is achieved as a team, so it is important that the intellectual capital of not just Mike [Petke], but a lot of other members of the organization within the youth academy and the first team [are heard]. I am looking forward to that, collaborating and arriving at the right decisions for the club.”

True to his declarations, Curtis was deferential during his press call, not willing to commit on the team’s future and intent until he spoke to key Red Bull figures like Director of Global Football, Gerard Houllier. He eschewed talk of DPs and focused instead on acquiring “quality players.” He said the MLS, USL Pro initiative is “near and dear” to him, but gave no timeline on Red Bulls’ activation. He touched on player acquisition, but refused to name areas of concern heading into the winter transfer window.

In all, Petke’s former teammate offered a departure from the norm.  Instead of leading out the gate, Curtis preferred to keep his ideas to himself until he manages to get his feet wet with the organization.  As the evaluations begin, the direction will be made clear.

That process is an important one for the new Red Bulls’ executive.

“There is a quote by Arthur Ashe that has always stuck with me,” he said. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

That quote sums up Curtis’ intentions in a nutshell.