Tuesday’s soccer news starts with the latest coaching move in Major League Soccer. The New York Red Bulls paid a release fee to hire Gerhard Struber from Championship club Barnsley. He replaces Chris Armas, let go by the club following MLS is Back. Bradley Carnell has served as the interim coach. Struber can’t officially take over as coach until he gets a work visa.
“I am looking forward to getting to know my new team, hopefully very soon,” Struber said. “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.”
In their own statement, Barnsley executive officer Dane Murphy said, “I must start by thanking Gerhard for the last 11 months. Tasked with maintaining the Club’s Championship status, he took a difficult position at Oakwell last November. Despite the seven point deficit and COVID-19, his belief never wavered and the night at Brentford will live long in the memory of all supporters. As much as we wanted Gerhard to remain at Oakwell we were not in a position to deny him this opportunity with a buy-out clause in his contract and his connection within the Red Bull set-up.”
Struber eventually takes over a club that is shorthand for under-achieving in MLS. Currently in 7th-place in the Eastern Conference, the club is trying to shake its reputation. Supporters’ Shield wins in 2015 and 2018 ended with playoff exits in the semifinals. Their one trip to MLS Cup came in 2008 when they were the worst team to make the playoffs. That was the season after they “parted ways” with Bruce Arena for not getting the team out of the opening round of the playoffs.
Even in this strange season, it seems unlikely that a coaching change without player moves will reinvent this version of the Red Bulls. More than anything, consistency is the problem. They can take full advantage in back to back 4-1 wins against Inter Miami and Montreal, then lose 3-1 at Orlando on Saturday. There’s a win one, lose one feel to this club that speaks to the broader competitive problems we’re seeing across the league. Pick a weekend, and a team can go from juggernaut to the wrong side of a lopsided scoreline.
The Red Bulls may not be the best example of that scenario, but it fits with their identity problem. The perception of the team that put together the best record in MLS just two seasons ago is that they’ll lose the games that matter. Whether in the regular season and certainly the playoffs, that’s going to remain in place until they don’t.
Moving to the soccer news, American Soccer Now’s Brian Sciaretta asks about what we really know when we look at the MLS tables. SI.com’s Jonathan Wilson does the same about competitiveness week-to-week in the Premier League. The Guardian’s Jonathan Liew wonders if there’s a return to what passes for normal. Inside World Soccer’s David Owen reports on Barcelona’s debt.
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Photo by Mike Lawrence – ISIPhotos.com