With Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh at the helm for a handful of days, a new President in Jerome de Bontin and no coach to speak of, who was the person pulling the trigger within the Red Bulls organization on all these recent personnel moves?
Would you believe Gerard Houllier?
According to multiple sources close to the situation, the Red Bulls Director of Global Soccer had the final word on the selection of the team’s massive ten player overhaul which included veterans Jan Gunnar Solli, Teemu Tainio, Stephen Keel and Bill Gaudette.
The decision to decline the club’s option on the player’s contracts came in short time. Some details were already provided by Red Bull’s defender Markus Holgersson in his blog on Alltidfullsatt – a Swedish outlet where he has regularly contributed throughout the year. According to Holgersson, players were individually told their fate the day after the team’s playoff ouster by a group of three unnamed people. He lamented about the team’s ability to exercise options on players and openly questioned whether such a large turnover will hurt the team in the long run.
According to his account, eleven players learned their fate that day – one short of the massive ten player overhaul New York made public. After a bit of digging, EoS has a clearer picture of the situation.
The Red Bulls Global Director flew in specifically for the D.C. playoff encounter. After having a hand in the dismissal of Erik Soler, Houllier wanted a closer look at the team he was remodeling for the 2013 season. A shambolic end to their playofff run opened the door for him to take immediate action on the inevitable makeover.
As Holgersson indicated, players were called into the Red Bulls offices the morning after the club’s ouster to D.C. United. Alphabetically, one at a time, they were summoned into a room in a manner one source described as “a firing squad.” Therein, they met with the trio of the yet to be announced Sporting Director Roxburgh, team technical director Ricardo Campos and Houllier.
Flanked by his freshly minted staff, it was Houllier who would do all the talking – and there wasn’t much talking to speak of. He laid down a simple decree to his subjects: if a player did not appear in either of the team’s two playoff matches against D.C., he matter-of-factly told them “I’ve never seen you play” and thus disqualified them from returning next season.
That immediately eliminated Solli, Keel, Gaudette, Jhonny Arteaga, Jose Angulo, Corey Hertzog, Jeremy Vuolo and Jonathan Borrajo from future consideration. It also put the likes of Wilman Conde and Sebastian Le Toux on notice for the coming season.
Though devastating in its delivery, the declaration came with a caveat. If any of the Red Bull players were recommended to stay aboard, they would be given the opportunity to fight for their job once more during the coming preseason training camp. There, they would be able to make an impression with whomever the new coach of the team will be.
Who would Houllier turn to for that vote of confidence? The answer lies with the man former General Manager Erik Soler said was being groomed to be his successor; Ricardo Campos. Campos, who is hailed for his deep understanding and knowledge of the league, played a big role in many of New York’s transfers during the Soler era. In this instance, others on staff had their input, but the ultimate recommendation came through the office of the technical director.
With that, eleven players learned their fate and ten were immediately cut. The one player yet to be officially announced is Sebastian Le Toux. Again, multiple sources close to the team say his fate will be made public by year’s end – and the player himself has hinted at that fact. The reason no announcement has been made may simply be because he is out of contract and therefore does not fall under the umbrella of a roster cut. In fact, New York still has the opportunity to sign him if they so desired.
It is no secret that Le Toux has long wanted a return to the Philadelphia Union. Remember, had it not been for former coach Petr Nowak, Le Toux would still likely be with the team. Just after the Red Bull’s steamrolled Philadelphia in their final regular season match, the Frenchmen cozied up to the Philly media and didn’t mince words about his desire to return.
“I think for me it will probably be that in the month of December I will decide what I want to do,” he said. “The MLS Final is December 1st and I hope we are going to get there. I will go on vacation on the 2nd, and after that I think it will be a talk with my agent to see what team wants me playing for them. It can be here, it can be in Europe.
“Of course Philadelphia is one of the teams I like the most. It’s not a secret for anybody,” he said. “So I’m just going to see what happens. I’m at the end of my contract so I can decide where I want to be, not like this year where I was going right and left and not playing for a team where I had decided to be.”
Since Soler’s departure, Houllier has enjoyed an omnipresent role with the side. How magnified or diminished that role may be with a new coach is yet to be determined but make no mistake; the former Liverpool boss is making his impression felt early with Austria’s wayward soccer franchise.