HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls might have a little bit more American flavor in 2013.
According to new sporting director Andy Roxburgh, the Red Bulls would like to field a team comprising more American players and maybe even a US-born coach in the coming years. At least, that’s the plan, partially to appeal to local fans who have grown frustrated by the influx of European players and lack of playoff success during former head coach Hans Backe’s three-year tenure.
"It's like Alex Ferguson used to always say to me, when he had boys like [David] Beckham, [Paul] Scholes, [Gary] Neville, all these guys, they were the heart and soul of Manchester United because they had local identity,” Roxburgh told reporters on Tuesday in his first interview with local media at Red Bull Arena. “I think it's the same thing. You try as best you can to have local identity maybe at the core and then you add on the icing on the cake, you can add on the international personalities.
“We'd like to try and make sure that we can bring in some through on Homegrown side of it or maybe other American players who we can bring in from elsewhere who have acquired the know-how at other MLS clubs."
During 2012, several Americans came up big for the Red Bulls, contributing to their third-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara played well beyond his years in the club’s first 18 matches before suffering a season-ending hip injury, forward Kenny Cooper led the team in scoring with 18 goals and midfielder Dax McCarty was arguably New York’s most consistent player while playing in all but one of the club’s matches.
That may be part of the reason why Roxburgh is not wasting any time in locking up a pair of the club’s younger American players. That starts with Homegrown defender Connor Lade, who Roxburgh said the team will re-sign "right now" because he "is a good boy and has done well" for the club.
"And so we reward him by re-signing him,” said Roxburgh. “Of course, Brandon Barklage, who has been injured, but we want to re-sign him as well because we think he has possibilities for us."
Aside from re-signing the two defenders who combined for 38 starts and eight assists last season, the Red Bulls are also in negotiations with multiple players who have previous MLS experience and are still in the prime of their careers.
Roxburgh also admitted the club hopes to sign its next coach by the end of the year, and that two candidates have already been interviewed. He did not reveal neither their names or who else is on his short list, but he stated that hiring an American is not out of the question.
“When I say the aim is to bring someone with an international background, that could be American,” said Roxburgh. “When I say international, I don't mean Europe, I mean international and global. People that kind of have that international reputation is what we're interested in at the moment.
“We don't want to rush the judgment here. The idea here is to get the best we can get and someone who is appropriate to here. Someone who is an educator, a coach, all these kind of things, who doesn't depend on the transfer market as it would be in Europe.”
If the eventual choice is not American, then the club will aim to have at least one of its two assistant coach positions filled by someone born in the US.
After all, that’s part of the club’s newfound priority.
“That is a determination from our point of view,” said Roxburgh. “We would not do one of these where if it's a European, he brings in half a dozen assistants from Europe. It wouldn't be like that.
“We think there's enough quality, but it's not just about quality. It's also about know-how because we feel in the MLS that know-how is clearly as important."
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.