Empire XI: No USL Pro Team Chips At Red Bulls Credibility

The New York Red Bulls won’t seek a third DP for 2014? OK, said the fans. Two years in a row … a clear departure from the status quo … but, OK. Let’s see where it all goes.

Three moves promised by Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh boiled down to a bench swap between New York and New England? OK, said the fans. Deals fall through all the time!  The core ain’t so bad anyway, right?  We can be patient!

No USL Pro team for 2014, though?

Pump the brakes.

Something isn’t right in Taurine Town.

Monday’s report quoting Roxburgh that the team would not pursue a USL Pro club — after repeatedly stating that they would — is the latest cause for concern in Red Bull land.

It has become increasingly clear that the purse strings have tightened while the Austrian overlords shift focus towards Germany.  Leipzig, for all of its corporate branding issues, has taken the lead role of importance in the dog pile for Red Bull dollars — as well it should.  Inclusion in the Bundesliga puts RB GmbH in a top three league worldwide, bringing with it added spotlight — and added dollars.

Meanwhile, back in Harrison, the little franchise that couldn’t finally has, and no one cares.  The favorite son has been shifted to second class citizen thanks to their over-achieving little brother.

And therein lies the tragedy in this whole scenario.  Red Bull teams of years past have been flush with money and potential, but short on visionary management and structure.  This Red Bull team enjoys arguably the most successful management duo in franchise history — but suddenly the Austrian Bank has gone bare.  Andy Roxburgh and Mike Petke not only managed to construct a club from the ashes of other clubs across the league, but they took them to the Supporters’ Shield, breaking an 18 year curse on this franchise in the process.  They laid out a practical modus operandi to the pursuit of growth, modeling themselves towards clubs like Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake while emphasizing continuity above all else.

By doing so, they have garnered something so many of their predecessors can only dream of; the patience and trust of the fan base.  Think about the names that have come through the doors in either East Rutherford or Harrison.  Arena?  Lalas?  Mo Johnston?  Osorio?  Agoos?  Soler?!  Backe?!?  Each has their success in the soccer world.  Each spent a handsome amount of time on the wrong end of the fans’ cat o’ nine tails during the good times and the bad.  Even Osorio was facing daggers right through to the team’s only MLS Cup Final appearance in history.

The yarn spinning Roxburgh and his club legend coach don’t have that problem.  Petke’s resume alone gave him a ton of rope from the long suffering Red Bull fans — and still does — while Roxburgh’s wise man delivery and pragmatic approach to the game earned him an endearing place in the hearts of the fan base.

For once, the war isn’t with the front office.  And just as management seems to have their house in order, RB GmbH flips the script, pumping the brakes on their once money-laden runaway freight train and putting their front office on the front line.

By going back on their word on a USL Pro side, ownership damages the final asset they have, and one has to wonder if they know — or care.  Roxburgh and Petke suddenly don’t look so trusted, especially as the former is caught in his second turnabout in as many weeks.  Where a stadium and new, expanding training grounds once signaled a vision towards the future, fans are left wondering if the penny pinching may mean something else entirely (I am looking in your direction, Grant Wahl).

The silence on Henry’s future doesn’t exactly help situations, either.

New York won’t win or lose an extra game next year if they fail to find USL Pro representation.  However, between this and their transfer market woes, they will begin to lose the faith of their fans mere months after earning it — and that is the last thing you would want with Sheik Mansour casting a shadow.

Whether at home or from abroad, Red Bull, in all of its forms, can’t seem to get out of its own way.


  1. Just to pad on Petke’s street cred, here is another reason for Red Bull fans to love him.  According to The Brotherly Game, Union fans were busy deriding Thierry Henry prior to the team’s weekend encounter.  Petke responded in the only way he knows how.  “You’re all scumbags! You’ll never amount to anything!”
  2. In bigger news, Chivas USA may be looking at a year long hiatus while new ownership and restructuring take hold.  While the right move under the circumstances, isn’t MLS supposed to be well past this stage?  And doesn’t the players union have something to say about losing more potential work for their constituents?  Twenty years from now, this may all be a moot point, but it does add to an already sour situation with Chivas to have this be the league’s only recourse.
  3. As if that wasn’t big enough news, everyone’s favorite commentator (OK … maybe not) Gus Johnson has decided to hang up his cleats.  I have to commend FOX for once again thinking outside of the box in his initial hire, but there are lessons to garner here.  First, maybe FOX should think about establishing a product first before revolutionizing it — starting with MLS.  Second, and perhaps even more revealing … soccer fans are tough, tough critics.
  4. One more earth-shaker: Don Garber and MLS want to be the first league in the world to experiment with touchline technology, continuing their disposition to play the guinea pig.  New ball for the World Cup?  Hand it here!  Spray cans for spot kicks?  Sure!  Why not.
  5. In the grand scheme of things, I am more of a football purist.  Any break in a match will certainly add to my aggrevation.  However, if done correctly, and quickly, this can be a boon for the sport.  It’s a gutsy move by the league — but one that comes with little to no consequence.
  6. Yes, you can get wrapped up in the idea that Jermaine Defoe already wants out of Toronto … or you can bask in the vicious delivery of Tim Leiweke’s revelation.  “My attitude [is] if you want to be here and you want to buy into what we’re doing, let’s go. Roll up your sleeves and we’ll fight together, and I will be there with you every day.  If you don’t want to be here, get the hell out of our way.”  Ouch.
  7. And sticking to Toronto DPs, Michael Bradley is getting a quick reminder of just how wonderful the league’s officiating can be.  “They continue to assign Canadian referees with Canadian teams playing against American teams,” Bradley said after playing the Fire this week. “It’s obvious these guys are going to go make a conscious effort that they are not being biased one way or another. It’s not the first time we’ve had this kind of issue.  What can you say? He’s not good enough. It’s unfortunate because we’re fighting for our lives. You see how much effort every guy here puts into it. To have two points taken from you at the end of the game, it’s just not good enough. The league can make all the excuses all they want, they can say they are working with PRO and bringing Peter Walton in and all this stuff, but at the end of the day it’s not even close to being good enough. Consistently they put referees out there who are in over their head. It’s a shame because they ruin games and totally decide the outcome of the game.” Tell us how you really feel, Mike.
  8. Ruthless?  Your acronym is USWNT, as the ladies beat Mexico 8-0 this week.
  9. MLS may be out another DP North of the border.  Marco Di Vaio could be on his way out of Montreal next season.  MLS defenders take a sigh of relief.  Impact fans?  Not so much.
  10. The loan is paying off already for Julian Green, who saw his first minutes with Hamburg this weekend in a 2-0 loss to Hannover.  Nothing spectacular from the young man, but an achievement none the less.
  11. Don’t miss the U.S. Open Cup final between Philadelphia and Seattle; two teams that will surely be hungry for the win.  Tuesday.  7:30PM. PPL Park

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  • EL Paso tx

    Red bull is going to have to open their mind if they want to survive in MLS. They want to keep marketing their energy drink with MLS and that is no good.
    Red bull won’t sell their team for 100million, more like 200million and who will pay that.
    Red bull will not rebrand anytime now or in the future due to their money and business.
    The only way red bull gets sold and rebrand, is if MLS and garber gets on their behind.

  • Jom

    I thought the cosmos was our usl pro team

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