by ANTHONY J. MERCED
One of the worst-kept secrets in MLS became fact on Thursday when Ali Curtis and the New York Red Bulls announced their divorce. The club said they “mutually agreed to part ways,” a nebulous phrase that closely translates to “you can’t fire me, I quit.” The team and its sporting director were at odds and failed in efforts to repair the relationship.
“I thank the New York Red Bulls for the opportunity,” Curtis said in a statement released by the club. “It was a privilege and an honor to serve the fans, players and staff. I am very proud of all the work and accomplishments of our team, both on and off the field, from the youth academy, through the USL and to the first team.”
The disconnect became apparent during the MLS combine when reports surfaced that Coach Jesse Marsch would leave the club for a job at Red Bull Salzburg. That was quickly dismissed by Marsch, who was in Los Angeles the MLS draft while Curtis left the event early. Since then, the club had declined to address reports of Curtis’ imminent departure.
“I would like to thank the families of all the staff and players as their support helped to fuel our achievements,” Curtis said. “Lastly, the lifeboat of the club remains its fans, and I would be remiss if I did not thank them for their tremendous passion.”
Curtis became the team’s sporting director after the departure of Andy Roxburgh in 2014. One of his first moves was to end the team’s relationship with Mike Petke and install Marsch as coach. That, coupled with the team’s budget constraints, were questioned by fans but produced instant results when the team won the Supporters Shield in 2015 and the Eastern Conference title in 2016. The Red Bulls’ top two club officials apparently also disagreed about the trade of Dax McCarty to Chicago.
No replacement for Curtis has been announced. Lately, however, Marsch has been the go-to guy for player acquisitions.