Denis Hamlett: “It was nice to see a player who goes and gets the ball, because we put a lot of focus on that. We know with the ball, his ability to change the game, it’s something different.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
When Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett and head coach Jesse Marsch journeyed to Argentina to watch and talk to Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra after last season, they wanted to make sure they were getting the real deal.
After talking to the standout midfielder, they were convinced.
“We knew he was the right one as he ticked all the boxes,” Hamlett said.
Some two months and a reported $6.25 million later ($5 million transfer fee and the remainder to pay fees and taxes), the Red Bulls are convinced they have added a vital part of their team. With so many MLS sides adding South American players to either run their show or make an impact, the 23-year-old has plenty of pressure on his shoulders.
Just as important was the fact Gamarra could fit into the Red Bulls’ high-pressure tactics.
“When we started to talk to him and see how engaged he was in terms of the types of questions he was asking, we just started to see that this was a player that can fit New York and can play in our system,” Hamlett said during a Saturday conference call. “We knew he was the right one as he ticked all the boxes.
“It was nice to see a player who goes and gets the ball, because we put a lot of focus on that. We know with the ball, his ability to change the game, it’s something different.”
It will be up to head coach Jesse Marsch for decide what position is best for Gamarra, who can play the middle or out wide.
“We’ve seen him play multiple positions, as a No. 10, out left, out wide, sometimes a little bit deeper,” Hamlett said. “I know Jesse and his staff, they enjoy players who have that kind of flexibility.”
Given that he hasn’t played since December and has trained with the Red Bulls the past two days, Gamarra probably is a longshot to play against Olimpia in the New York’s Round of 16 first leg in the CONCACAF Champions League Thursday.
“He’s been out for a while. So we have to be smart and mindful to make sure that we bring him along the right way. It’s a long season, so we want to make sure he can contribute from a physical standpoint [and] a tactical standpoint.”