Gonzalo Veron is not a bust – he just doesn’t fit in

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by DAVE MARTINEZ

Editorial – One of the more interesting debates to emerge from the New York Red Bulls loss to New York City FC revolves around Gonzalo Veron. Is he a bust? Or isn’t he?

It seems an odd narrative, particularly after that loss. Not a fan of Jesse Marsch’s tactics? That I can understand. Critical about starting Alex Muyl and Chris Duvall in a pivotal derby encounter? No problem. I get that too.

But all these people calling Gonzalo Veron a bust? After a listless 20 minute appearance? And after the year he has endured? Come on now. The consternation is understandable. After all, these are not the good old days of the free-wheeling, high-spending Red Bulls — the team that could throw money at a Frank Rost, watch it burn, and look for the next bonfire to feed. Nowadays, every penny counts.

Here are some facts to chew on: Veron has featured in nine of the Red Bulls 18 matches this year. Four of those appearances were starts. One of those starts lasted 32 minutes due to injury — the result of an over-eager Red Bulls braintrust that desperately wished to rekindle the offensive play of the preseason. That resulted in another six week layoff.

In total, Veron has played 297 of a possible 1,620 minutes this season. He has never played more than 63 minutes of a match since joining the Red Bulls in 2015. In fact, he is just 24 minutes away from equaling his minute totals for 2015 — and that was when he made a whopping 13 appearances for the club!

“Well Dave, isn’t that proof that he is a complete bust?”

Not necessarily. Think of it from Veron’s point of view. A lack of playing time, a congested roster and his coach’s insistence of playing him on the wing instead of his preferred central position created the environment for Veron to leave San Lorenzo in the first place. He arrives in New York with dreams of more playing time and a better placement in the attack. Instead, it was more of the same.

“Whose fault is that?” you may ask. That’s complicated. You can’t blame Marsch — at least not for the way he has handled the situation. In Marsch’s world, it is all about “merit to minutes” – an admirable quality that has helped erase the “foreigners-know-best” mentality of the club’s heritage. That approach applies to everyone, from MLS Draftees to Designated Players, fostering an environment of equality and family that has come to define his reign.

But again, let’s look at Veron’s point of view. Despite his commanding salary, Veron did not get the “DP treatment” from the Red Bulls — meaning, he was a big-money purchase that was never guaranteed a spot. Anywhere else in MLS, a multi-million dollar investment automatically means a place in the team’s XI — especially when it comes to integrating a midseason acquisition. That wasn’t the case for Veron. Even when his fitness was at level, he was passed on for other options.

“But Dave, shouldn’t his talent alone be enough to force his way into the starting XI?” In an ideal world, absolutely. But who would you sit on that juggernaut of a club? Forward was never an option. Bradley Wright-Phillips has that position on lock. Creative midfield genius? Sacha Kljestan already owns that spot. And who would argue that Mike Grella and Lloyd Sam didn’t deserve their spots throughout the 2015 campaign?

For all the hoopla surrounding his signing, Veron was no different than Shaun Wright-Phillips. Salary and reputation be damned — it’s up to you to break the XI. That’s an odd approach to the team’s only multi-million dollar investment. Odd, but respectable. Following the DP era, it was necessary for Marsch and company to prove the worth of their words: no one is above the team’s success. Veron became a casualty of that thinking — for better or for worse.

Now, sources at the time of his signing did say Veron was not picked up for the team’s 2015 interests – but for his place in 2016. This year, Marsch proved that point. He was ready to make the Red Bulls work for Veron — instead of the other way around. He introduced a two-man forward front in the offseason that looked all but ready to usurp the traditional single forward formation. Just as that approach was ready to debut, Veron fell injured on the final scrimmage of preseason. And again, he re-injured himself three short weeks later.

Suddenly, what began as a fresh start to a new campaign turned into deja-vu for the Argentine playmaker. In his absence, the Red Bulls returned to their single-forward front. The few times they attempted to go two-strikers, the team responded poorly. Wright-Phillips continues to be the team’s best option at forward. Kljestan and Grella look even better than they did last year. Just as Veron’s healing process was complete, the team also began winning again. And to make matters worse, the fight for minutes at the right wing became even more crowded with the emergence of Alex Muyl. Think about it — Veron was healthy and rested for the NYCFC derby this weekend, and Marsch still went with his homegrown player on the right. That should tell you something.

In short, it is back to square one for Veron.

It is often said that foreigners need time to transition into MLS. Over the course of two seasons, Veron has been unable to string together a 90 minute performance, let alone a series of meaningful matches. And the few times he has been on the field, he looks unsettled — as any striker struggling for minutes will appear.

Of course, Veron isn’t without fault. He underestimated the league upon his arrival and his integration to the side was difficult from the start. Rust aside, he hasn’t been able to make a case for himself in the short minutes he has played either.

But even without those issues, Veron never fit in with this club. He is too talented and too well-compensated to be a super sub. He has not been able to unseat the incumbent players in any of the team’s four key attacking positions. Barring injury, a change in tactics or a severe downturn in Lloyd Sam’s play, that chance may never come. After all — Marsch has already indicated the team’s desire to scour the market for forward options, when a very expensive one is right there, ready for the call.

So don’t say that Veron is a bust. He hasn’t even earned the chance to underachieve! Instead, look at him for what he is — a talented attacking player that is excess goods for one of the league’s traditional top scoring sides. And that conundrum doesn’t look like it will change any time soon.

 

 

  • troy

    I still like Veron. We didn’t lose to NYCFC because of him.

  • Daddy yankee

    There is only one Veron, ask Argentina.
    Red bull is chivas USA
    And yes chivas USA supposedly also had the best academy,just like red bull.

  • Marco Ganelli

    “Think about it — Veron was healthy and rested for the NYCFC derby this weekend, and Marsch still went with his homegrown player on the right. That should tell you something.”

    Dave, what does that tell you?

    • Jonnycat

      Anyone who believes that Veron at his age wasn’t damaged goods before he came is a naive fool. No club sells young talent unless it’s all a pipe dream. I said it a year ago…we got scammed. Accept it.