Why must the New York Red Bulls continue to make it easy for us to mock them? Seriously.
Yesterday was just another day in the life of the New York franchise. Just when it seemed this team had turned a corner this year and had gotten some form of consistency on and off the field, the upper management decided to make a change, in the most random time of the season.
The New York Red Bulls announced yesterday that they have hired former AS Monaco president Jérôme de Bontin as general manager. De Bontin will focus on the club’s business operations. Erik Solér, formerly general manager and sporting director, will remain with the club as an internal advisor.
Gerard Houllier, who was named Head of Global Soccer for Red Bull in July, will oversee the soccer side of things.
The move from Soler isn’t the first shake up this season at Red Bull Arena. Earlier in the year the club removed Chris Heck from his position. They didn’t replace Heck at the time and in a way this move to de Bontin and Houllier seems to be a full sale change for those corner office positions. De Bontin brings the soccer background but more importantly in the minds of those in Austria a business background as well.
Why this move now?
Solér was hired as New York’s general manger and sporting director in November 2009, hiring Hans Backe to manage the side and signing players such as Joel Lindpere, Thierry Henry, Rafa Márquez and Tim Cahill, among others. He helped bring in players like Sebastien Le Toux, Kenny Cooper and Dax McCarty as well.
What really strikes this as odd is the timing of it all. New York is in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference and still has an outside shot at winning the conference. They are 4-1-3 in their past eight matches and their 53 points is tied for the third highest total in MLS.
Soler will stick around in a new role, so he’s not truly gone from the club. Still, all of this leaves you scratching your head as to why this happened.
Still, the timing makes little sense and when you consider that de Bontin is taking over a roster that is full of MLS talent that took roughly three years to build, you have to wonder what will happen to this club next.
The first question out of my mouth yesterday when I read this news was, what happens to Hans Backe? Obviously he’ll get to finish out this season as the team is in the middle of the playoff hunt. As crazy as the move from Soler, a move away from Backe right now would be even more strange.
Backe has been good enough over the last couple of years but if the upper management was willing to part with Soler in the GM position, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them move away from Backe in the coaching spot either.
We’ve seen it a dozen times before with this club and others when someone new steps into the front office that has the power to make changes with a team. This winter could be about making big changes once again in New York for this roster. One guy that is likely gone is Rafa Marquez and probably same could be said for someone like Le Toux (I believe his contract will be up). That’s plenty of cap space right there for de Bontin and company to work with in their first off season.
Background on the new guys
Born in Paris, de Bontin studied in the United States and has worked within United States Soccer Federation for several years.
He also is a member of the Investment Committee of the US Soccer Foundation, served on the US Soccer Federation task force on player development and is the current chairman of the Rush Soccer Organization. De Bontin brings a considerable business background to the Red Bulls’ general manager role, and is currently the director of Sustainability Investments LLC and Mekar Financial Services.
Also French, Houllier was most recently the manager of Liverpool (1998-2004), Lyon (2005-07) and Aston Villa (2010-11).