New York Red Bull Trinity

By | January 22, 2013

This article first appeared in

As much as one should avoid clichés like the plague, the old axiom that there can be too many cooks in the kitchen, seems appropriate when discussing the rather insular world of the New York Red Bulls. After all, recent front office shakeups that were meant to bring stability to the club have created a trinity that already appears to be getting in its own way.

Of course, transition periods are seldom smooth; nevertheless, this is hardly comforting news for Red Bulls fans that have endured a turbulent past, and are now hoping for a modicum of tranquility.

This much-desired tranquility rests greatly on the shoulders of the club’s new management core, which is comprised of Gerard Houllier, Jerome de Bontin, and Andy Roxburgh, which ironically, and in keeping with the cliché, could be the source of the first cracked dishes.

The Austrian owned outfit hired Houllier in July as head of Global Soccer – as strange a title as you’ll find in the world of soccer – in order to run the organization’s three professional soccer clubs, as well as their two main academies. Houllier’s appointment forecast changes at the club, but few expected the unceremonious demotion of General Manager Erik Soler, whose tenure oversaw the team’s best regular season, and perhaps more importantly, the signing of Thierry Henry.

The fact that Soler was demoted while the Red Bulls were still hunting for a playoff berth in October speaks volumes about the lack of faith management had in the team’s ability to win silverware, last season, and revealed that the club’s course would shift significantly.

Former AS Monaco president, de Bontin, was brought in as Soler’s replacement in October, and Roxburgh, a Scotsman and former UEFA Technical Director, soon joined the Frenchman.

By all intents-and-purposes, all three men have well defined roles within the organization. As head of Global Soccer, Houllier is tasked with implementing a philosophy for all the Red Bull clubs. De Bontin is charged with the club’s business operations, and as Sporting Director, Roxburgh is accountable for the daily administration of the team. The reality, however, appears to be quite different, as evidenced by the never-ending coaching saga.

Meant to be a done deal before the beginning of the new year, the search for a new head coach has become protracted because the three man cannot agree on the right candidate. Ultimately, Roxburgh is responsible for the appointment, and he’s made clear that club needs an experienced coach at the helm, preferably with some international pedigree. This at odds with de Bontin’s wishes. Well versed in the ins-and-outs of American soccer, the Frenchman favors an American coaching staff familiar with the MLS, which is run very differently from other soccer governing bodies. Houllier, almost certainly shares Roxburgh’s views; yet, it’s been reported that the two had different opinions about appointing Gary McAllister, who served as Houllier’s assistant coach.

Ultimately, it’s clear that Houllier wants to play a major role in the Red Bulls decision making process – just ask the ten players he personally axed from the squad – and his position assures that he has that power. The problem, though, is that people become easily disenchanted when they’re not allowed to perform the duties that they’ve been entrusted with, especially when their well-established reputations are on the line.

It’s far too early to tell, but if these early disagreements are any indication, there will be a lot more issues surfacing in the future, and a head coach hasn’t even been thrown into the mix.