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Photo Courtesy of Werner Renzl

Soccer

New York Red Bulls Hire Gerhard Struber as Head Coach

On Tuesday, the New York Red Bulls soccer team announced that Austrian, Gerhard Struber will be their next head coach. The 43-year-old hails from Austria, where the Red Bulls Salzburg roam, or play; they are New York’s sister club.

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The New York Red Bulls have been without a full-time coach, (relying on an interim head coach) for one month. Sporting Director, Kevin Thelwell said it did not take long for him to decide that Struber was the right man for the job. According to the club, Struber “will be introduced to the media following receipt of his work VISA.”

It is being reported that Red Bull have said the Austrian will take over the head coaching duties shortly after he receives his VISA. Here is how Struber described his eagerness to start working in New York.

“I am looking forward to getting to know my new team, hopefully very soon. We want to pursue very ambitious goals together and develop steadily. The challenge of working in MLS makes me proud and gives me massive motivation for a big opportunity.”

 

Struber’s Coaching Strengths

In 2017, Struber got his first head coaching gig in the Austrian second division with FC Liefering. One year later, he became the head coach at A.C. Wolfsberger in the Austrian first division, where he led that scrappy group of lads to two historic wins over European Giants, AS Roma and Borussia M’gladbach in the UEFA Europa League.

At a press conference, where reporters asked Red Bulls general manager, Kevin Thelwell questions about why he hired Struber, Thelwell described why he has confidence Struber can change the ways the team goes about working and interacting with each other, which will create bonds between him and the players and the players among themselves.

“I’m expecting a coach who can make a difference very, very quickly,” Thelwell said, “How he can make a difference is by working with young players at building team cohesion, and then also culturally, how he works with other staff to drive this whole project forward. From the conversations that we’ve had, and what I’ve observed about him is that he’s really going to help us move forward.”

Struber can draw on his youth development experience for seven years with Red Bulls Salzburg youth academy and his time as head coach of Salzburg’s feeder team, FC Liefering, where he coached Samuel Tetteh who will be on the New York Red Bulls roster when he arrives on a plane from Austria, flying across a clear, October sky.

On Saturday, the New York Red Bulls signed 17-year-old Caden Clark to an MLS contract. That same day, Clark made his MLS-debut with the first team and scored his first goal. He figures to be an important part of the Red Bulls’ future, along with fellow Red Bulls II products like Jared Stroud and Tom Barlow to name a few who are emerging as mainstays in the starting eleven.

 

Red Bulls Head Coach History

The New York Red Bulls have hired 15 full-time head coaches in the club’s 25-year history. Struber is the Red Bulls’ third head coaching hire in the last three years. This may lead the fans to wonder, if this constant change in leadership will negatively impact the performance of star players, Aaron Long and Kaku, one of the team’s two designated players.

In 2018, the Red Bulls were on pace for a club record for points in the standings, before head coach, Jesse Marsch left in the middle of the season for Red Bulls Leipzig. When Marsch left, Chris Armas took over and led the club to its third Supporter’s Shield and a conference final appearance in 2018.

However, after a slow start to this season, Armas and the club parted ways on Sept. 4, 2020. Couple two head coaches coming and going and the team being denied their chance at winning an MLS Cup in the conference finals, it’s been a rough two years for the Red Bulls fans who have had high expectations for years.

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Red Bulls II head coach, John Wolyniec understands the pain the fans have gone through too well. “Wolly” was a player with the Red Bulls back from 2006 to 2010, when the team underwent a five coaching changes, including two interims.

The bench boss on the farm described those first few years after New York Metrostars were bought by Red Bull Global as “a turbulent time in Red Bull history.” However, Wolyniec sounded optimistic when he said that “in recent history there’s been a bit more consistency and that speaks to the leadership of the club and a commitment to improving.”

Wolyniec also described why the hire of Gerhard Struber, whose roots run deep into the Red Bulls organization will move the club forward.

There’s always going to be coaching changes, that’s part of the deal when you sign up for professional sports in general, but this recent change is a sign that Red Bull Global is ready to make a big commitment to New York and were looking to continue to move the club forward.

A Note to the Red Bulls Faithful

The 2010’s were the winningest decade in Red Bull history, so fans who have watched the team all these years have every right to wonder if the next decade can match that success.

One reason the fans should look to the future with high hopes is the New York Red Bulls are stacked with young players, who will be projects for Struber. That list now includes Samuel Tetteh, who joins on loan from Red Bulls Salzburg. Tetteh played for Struber at FC Liefering and the two will be looking to use their familiarity to achieve great things in New York.

Midfielder and New York Red Bulls veteran player Daniel Royer is Austrian, like Struber. Being in a position of experience, Royer can is in the position to help Struber get to know the players faster.

Looking at the state of the franchise, Struber is becoming head coach of a team with only three or four players above the age of 28, while the rest of the team is quite young if you factor in five players under-20 and now Tetteh and Yearwood (24 and 21 years of age).

There’s no doubt that taking control of a young team with a fanbase eager to win their first championship, will be a tough task for Struber to undertake, but the sporting director seems to think he picked the right guy. If Struber can get the most out of young international players, Yearwood and Caden Clark, as well as Omar Sowe and other talent coming from Red Bulls II, who knows, he might just turn this “whole project” around faster than you think.

 

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Anthony Paradiso
Anthony Paradiso has written for In The Zone since June, 2019. Anthony coaches high school ice hockey and covers local sports in Greenwich Village for West View News, as a reporter and columnist. A graduate of Montclair State University, currently, he co-hosts a sports talk show on the University's radio station, 90.3 FM WMSC.

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