ORLANDO, Fla. - The Red Bulls first major player personnel move under the guidance of Head Coach Jesse Marsch and Sporting Director Ali Curtis came Tuesday as the club acquired Brazilian midfielder Felipe and the top spot in the MLS allocation order from the Montreal Impact.
In exchange, Red Bull sent midfielder Eric Alexander, defender Ambroise Oyongo, a 2015 international spot and an undisclosed amount of allocation money north of the border.
Marsch admitted Tuesday that parting ways with the duo, specifically Alexander, wasn’t easy.
“Obviously the timing’s not great because we’re getting started and we wish this could have been done earlier,” he told NewYorkRedBulls.com. “We know we’re losing two good players to Montreal but we feel like we’re [going to be] gaining two very good players that make us stronger. Not easy to say goodbye to Eric for sure, he was a guy that was popular in the group and successful on the field, but again I think Felipe and the allocation spot will help us down the road.”
Alexander appeared in each of the Red Bulls’ 68 regular season matches the past two seasons, tallying eight goals and 20 assists while, over time, forming a strong partnership in the middle of the field with Dax McCarty.
Oyongo appeared in 13 regular season matches, adding three assists as a left back and winger. The 23-year-old has spent January representing Cameroon at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, scoring a goal in the Indomitable Lions’ tournament opening draw with Mali.
While he says goodbye to two players, Marsch is reunited with Brazilian attacker Felipe, who he brought with him to the Impact during that team’s inaugural MLS season in 2012. Over three seasons with Montreal, Felipe racked up 12 goals and 24 assists over 93 regular season appearances.
“He’s a great competitor,” Marsch said. “He can play anywhere in the midfield. He’s mobile, clever, works hard, tactically smart, very good feet – the kid’s got very few weaknesses. He’ll come here and he’ll compete. He’ll bring a real competitive edge to what we are doing every day. I think he’ll fit in well.”
Beyond his soccer acumen, Marsch gave high praise to what he’ll bring to the Red Bull locker room.
“There’s so much to his game in terms of all of the soccer stuff but he brings competitive will. He wins everyday in training – the thought of having guys like him and Dax in the midfield working together, it’s exciting to think about how good we could be in there.”
Of course the other piece to the deal – top spot in the MLS allocation ranking – isn’t completely in place, though reports indicate the club will likely use the spot on U.S. international midfielder Sacha Kljestan.
“Part of the issue of the longevity of this deal getting done was making sure how we’re going to use that allocation, for what player we were going to use it, that we’re very, very certain that we would come to terms with that player,” said Marsch. “We’ve obviously earmarked that specific player, we’re very close to getting something done and we think it’s a guy that’s really going to add to our team and make us much better.”
Marsch spent four seasons playing with Kljestan at Chivas USA and also previously coached the Anderlecht midfielder while serving as an assistant to Bob Bradley with the U.S. Men’s National Team.