From their earliest days on the job, Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis and head coach Jesse Marsch talked about team chemistry not only on the field, but in the locker room as well. Eleven players playing as one and no egos tolerated.
As the season began, so did the search for a designated player. Can you imagine how hard it is to find a young, talented player with no ego, a difference-maker who is willing to be coached and who comes at a reasonable price?
After an exhaustive search, Curtis and Marsch found their man. Gonzalo Veron, a 25-year-old winger who was playing for San Lorenzo in his native Argentina was introduced Saturday as the club’s youngest DP in history.
“He fits in exactly what we're trying to do as a club,” Curtis said. “On the field we like to press. It's high pressure (and) we need guys that can fit into that style. He's also, when you sit down with him and you get to talking to him, you know that he's a really good young man. We're very concerned about our locker room. We want a healthy, fun environment. That culture, when you're around it, you see that, you feel that, and Gonzalo will fit right in.
“He's been here for a couple of days, he's starting to learn English a little bit more, he's starting to get to know the guys a little bit more. We feel that he's exactly what we're looking for. As Jesse said earlier, we want to get him out on the field and we want to get him going, and he'll learn our system a little more each week.”
Marsch agreed, and added that the team as a whole is pitching together to make Veron’s transition as comfortable as possible.
“A lot of the research that we did on Gonzalo was what kind of man he is,” Marsch said. “We felt that was really important, that we had a good locker room and a good group of guys. We want to make sure that whoever we add we do from all the right areas that don’t disturb all the rhythm and chemistry that we’ve built. Everyone that talked about Gonzalo raved about the kind of person he is, and since he’s been here we’ve been impressed.
“Even though he doesn’t speak English he’s pretty smart and he’s picked up a little bit. When we had a soccer conversation with him he’s pretty tuned in to what we’re trying to do, he’s watched us. I expect that even though it’s been a relatively short time that he’s been here I expect him to adjust rather seamlessly.”
Veron is expected to make his debut in Sunday’s derby against New York City FC at Red Bull Arena.
“I'd like to thank Ali and Jesse for their hard work to get me here,” Veron said through an interpreter, Red Bulls team administrator Juan Romero. “I'm very happy to be here now, and I hope my hard work pays off for the faith they have put in me.
“From the moment I found out about this opportunity, I was excited. I knew that the New York Red Bulls are a very important club in North America. This league is growing, it's competitive. There are many European players that are here, and now that I'm here, I'm just excited to do what I can to help the team.”
While Marsch will ease Veron into the lineup, his presence will have a big effect on the team going forward. Combined with Shaun Wright-Phillips, the club’s other recent signing, the Red Bulls are rich in midfield talent. If both become starters, as expected, it will likely see Sacha Kljestan playing more of a defensive role, with Mike Grella and Felipe possibly headed to the bench.
“It’s part of the game,” Grella said. “There’s only one way to take it and it’s quite simple. All I do is come into work every day and train as hard as I can and work as hard as I can for this team and myself, just try to be as dangerous as possible and be a helping hand on this team.
“I want to be one of the main players on this team. I’ve had a really good start to the season and I want to finish strong, so the addition of those players, if they strengthen the team, great, but for me it’s all about working hard and continuing to do exactly what I’ve done from the start, which is sacrifice for this team and fighting for myself and this team. That’s my only aim. All the other stuff is out of my control, so let it be.”
Veron didn’t seem worried about playing time or where he might fit in best. Everything he said was about the club, a sign that Curtis and Marsch scouted well.
“It's up to the coach of the side where I fit in best or when any player fits in best,” Veron said. “I've said all along that I feel very comfortable playing out wide on the left. I'm very happy with the system that Jesse has implemented of high pressure and finishing the play quickly from the midfield forwar,d and I'm just at his orders.
“The MLS is the league of the future, it's very competitive, it's growing, it's a league where very many players want to come and prove themselves, and now that I'm here I want to do just that. I want to prove my worth inside the field.”
Veron’s signing is the culmination of everything Curtis wanted in his quest to reshape the Red Bulls.
“I think first and foremost, when I first came to the club, one of the things you want to do is really establish what can be the identity of this club long term and what's your vision, what's your mission, what's your philosophy, what's you core principles, what's your style of play,” Curtis said.
“And so the style of play that we play is train hard, we play hard, we're high pressing, and in that respect you really need young players that can withstand the test of time in a 10-month season, and so we want guys that can contribute right away, but we also want guys that the fans can see and watch and cheer for year on year, and so getting a guy like Gonzalo at the age of 25 we feel fits that perfectly.”