Have you ever heard the expression “too many chefs in the kitchen?”
That describes the Red Bulls current front office situation.
Three powerful men with three commanding personalities have taken on the team’s operational direction over the course of a few short months. Each man has their own ideas. Each has a job to do. Each has encountered confrontation while carving their niche in the team’s hierarchy and each has a vision for the future which, at times, clashes with the others.
Though they continue to keep busy with some rather eye opening (and at times, highly heralded) moves this offseason, the resulting tension has at times been paralyzing to the team – especially in regards to the head coaching search.
The characters in this drama are perhaps as complicated as the circumstances themselves. There is General Manager Jerome de Bontin; a soccer executive with a decent grasp on the ins and outs of the American pyramid thanks to his own work on the developmental side. Then there is Andy Roxburgh; the team’s 69 year old Sporting Director who’s resume reads like a history book on World Soccer. And of course, the wildcard in this group is perhaps the biggest and most influential name on the list; Gerard Houllier – the Austrian emissary sent to right the ship in a foreign and complicated land known as MLS.
de Bontin is strictly on board for the operational aspects of the team’s business despite his domestic soccer knowledge. In fact, of the three, he likely understands the intricacies of MLS better than his counterparts. Though not in his job description, his background in soccer has made him a vocal proponent for an American core to the coaching staff. It is a sentiment held by his colleague, Andy Roxburgh, though the latter is more likely to favor a seasoned boss over a less experienced one.
Gerard Houllier has his own plans. Since firing then General Manager Erik Soler leading up to the Red Bulls 2012 playoff run, the French boss has taken a hands on approach in reconstructing the team. Houllier undoubtedly holds all the cards and he isn’t afraid to show it. With Roxburgh keeping a watchful eye in his first days with the team, Houllier mercilessly axed 10 New York players the morning after the team’s playoff elimination against DC United (read Houllier’s Hammer) in a memorable show of force. Yes, current staff consulted with him about the potential changes, but ultimately, it was Houllier who did the deed – with little sympathy to his subjects.
Houllier has also taken the lead role in the coaching search. That in itself has caused tensions to rise. Sources have told EoS that Roxburgh and Houllier have quibbled on more than one occasion about the merits of hiring McAllister over the past few weeks. After all, it’s Roxburgh’s job to have the final say on such a hiring.
However, in the unique world of Red Bulls GmBH, bosses abound.
In the grand scheme of things, Houllier is representative of the entire Red Bulls soccer landscape, including all five organizational footballing sides; Red Bull New York, Leipzig, Ghana, Brasil and of course, Salzburg. That gives him unquestionable authority to make the final call on any operational decision he sees fit.
But with the responsibility of that decision on his shoulders, the near 70 year old Roxburgh would bear the brunt of the judgement.
That is the crux of the matter. Without what the Sporting Director feels is sufficient and necessary input on the hiring, Roxburgh and Houllier haven’t been able to get on the same page.
Today’s report linking Claudio Reyna to the club is perhaps the only area where the three are likely to agree. He fulfills the need for an experienced American sought after by Roxburgh and de Bontin while also bringing a candidate to the table whom Houllier knows and respects. Sources have told EoS that Houllier and Reyna share a good deal of history together and the American’s resume only enhances his confidence in such a hiring.
Even so, a head coach remains elusive and the one candidate that barely maintains the lead is one the triumvirate can not see eye to eye on.
Now, discussions and disagreements do occur. Frankly, in many instances, they can be positive in the constructive building of an organization. But with these new faces jockeying for position just days prior to the MLS Combine and the Red Bulls preseason, time is precious and answers need to be made concrete. Yes, New York have all of one draft pick, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of what lies ahead. MLS Draft goes beyond selections; there is the combine, scouting, networking, potential meetings and the rare opportunity to mingle with fellow MLS club executives face to face. As we discussed previously – Petke is a fine representative for the team, capable of handling these duties but no one will want to deal with an interim. That is simply fact.
Bottom line; even if Petke and the trinity of Red Bull bosses put in the necessary legwork in Florida, to not have a coach represented would be disastrous. The longer the indecision lingers, the worse it will get for the team.
If Red Bulls fans are going to believe that the new management is different from past installments, decisions need to be made. Their first true chance to show a united front is in the MLS Draft – and time is slipping away fast.