Juan Carlos Osorio directed the Red Bulls from 2008-09. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
The Red Bulls/MetroStars have had 18 head coaches, including interim ones, in their 25-year history.
On Tuesday, Gerhard Struber was named the 18th head coach.
The Red Bulls have had 14 full-time head coaches over the past quarter century.
Richie Williams has directed the team twice as an interim coach and is counted among the coaches, as his current interim head coach Bradley Carnell.
The 18 coaches in a quarter of a century are the most in Major Soccer League history.
Here is a quick history of the coaches:
Eddie Firmani (1996) — 3-5
A former three-North American Soccer League championship coach with the Cosmos and Tampa Bay Rowdies, Firmani seemingly was behind the curve from the outset. He cut Jorge Acosta, a talented local player, and kept Giovanni Savarese on the bench way too long. He finally departed – the team said he stepped down, while reports claimed he was fired – around Memorial Day weekend as the MetroStars floundered early on. Firmani’s hiring and departure helped set the pace of which this franchise has gone through coaches.
Carlos Queiroz (1996) — 12-12
Taking over in an emergency situation, Queiroz, closed ranks up on defense and made the MetroStars a much more disciplined team. Considering the players he was left with, a .500 regular-season mark and a playoff berth was an accomplishment. The team wanted him back for 1997, but Grampus Eight (Japan) offered him a contract that he could not refuse for future security of the Queiroz family. He went on to coach the Portuguese and Iranian national teams in the World Cup.
Carlos Alberto Parreira (1997) — 13-19
Speaking of the World Cup, on paper, it seemed that hiring the coach of the 1994 world championship team would have been the tonic for the MetroStars. Then again, bringing in an outsider at that time that was not as familiar with the American soccer talent wasn’t the answer. The team failed to reach the playoffs. During the 1998 World Cup draw in December 1997, Parreira was offered a multi-million-dollar deal to coach Saudi Arabia that he couldn’t refuse. So, he stepped down as coach.
Alfonso Mondelo (1998) — 14-17
Mondelo, who guided the Long Island Rough Riders to the 1995 U.S. Interregional Soccer League crown, was Parreira’s assistant who succeeded him. He lost a few players to the 1998 World Cup and the team thrived without them. When the players returned, several problems ensued as a 14-11 record – the best ever during the regular season – turned into a six-game losing streak. Mondelo was fired.
Bora Milutinovic (1998-1999) — 8-25
A disaster. The one-time national coach of Mexico, the United States, Nigeria and China, among other countries, never could understand the many rules and machinations of MLS and he befuddled players left and right. Not surprisingly, the team finished with a horrendous record during his reign of error. And thankfully, he was not rehired for the 2000 season. Whew!
Octavio Zambrano (2000-2002) — 41-37-8
He coached one of the most, if not the most exciting and memorable teams in club history. What a team that 2000 squad was – Clint Mathis, Adolfo Valencia, Tab Ramos, Daniel Hernandez, Mike Ammann and Lothar Matthaeus, among others. This Metros side, which was championship caliber, was eliminated by the Chicago Fire on a controversial call in the semifinals. The 2001 team was good, but not as lethal as the previous squad. The 2002 side underachieved severely under OZ and he was fired after the season.
Bob Bradley (2003-2005) — 32-31-26
The MetroStars were able to pry Bradley away from the Chicago Fire, which he guided to the MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championships in 1998. He changed the team, drafted three talented youngsters – Mike Magee, Eddie Gaven and Rico Clark. The Metros were a competitive club during his tenure but again failed in the postseason. During the 2005 season, then general manager Alexi Lalas forced Bradley to wear suits while on the bench. That was something he had never done. Bradley eventually was fired as assistant coach Mo Johnston reluctantly took over. Bradley deserved better. Not surprisingly, the team was bounced in the opening round of the playoffs. Bradley, the Los Angeles Football Club coach, went on to direct the U.S. and Egyptian national teams.
Mo Johnston (2005-2006) — 4-3-7
Johnston went from interim to fulltime coach during a team in which the MetroStars were purchased by Red Bull in Austria and became the Red Bulls in time for opening day. While he lost only three out of 14 matches, seven of those results were draws as the team saw points fly out the window. Meanwhile, Bruce Arena’s time as U.S. men’s national coach was coming to an end and the Red Bulls hierarchy saw an opportunity to bring in what many observers felt was the best team in American men’s soccer history.
Richie Williams (2006) — 3-3-2
In his first tenure as interim coach between the Johnston and Arena, Williams proved himself quite able as he kept the team at an even keel.
Bruce Arena (2006-2007) — 16-16-10
Hired right after the U.S. was eliminated at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Arena took some time off before he took over the coaching reigns. He later admitted he should have waited until the 2007 season. The team had its moments under him, although during the waning minutes of the 2006 season, the goal-scoring heroics of Honduran international Amado Guevara and 16-year-old Jozy Altidore propped up the team. He was axed after the 2007 season because the team did not see the results commensurate of a national team coach.
Juan Carlos Osorio (2008-2009) — 12-27-23
After bouncing Arena, the Red Bulls coveted the Chicago Fire’s boss and eventually signed Osorio. The team struggled to make the playoffs during the 2008 season but went on a magical run during the playoffs as a Western Conference entry eve though it played in the Eastern Conference (crazy playoff rules back then, folks). The Red Bulls came back down to earth in its only appearances in MLS Cup, losing to the Columbus Crew. During a nightmare 2009 season, Osorio was fired with eight games remaining in the season.
Richie Williams (2009) — 3-3-2
In his second tenure with the temporary label, Williams guided the Red Bulls to more wins than Juan Carlos Osorio up until then during the 2009. Very surprised, no MLS team has given the former Union Lancers and University of Virginia standout an opportunity to be the boss of his own team.
Hans Backe (2010-12) — 41-26-31
With the team finally leaving Giants Stadium and playing in a venue of its own, Red Bull Arena, the Austria hierarchy decided to take a new approach. It hired a relatively unknown (at least to American soccer fans) Swedish coach in Hans Backe. They then signed two high-profile internationals that summer – 1998 French World Cup winner Thierry Henry and Mexican defender-midfielder Rafael Marquez. Henry was the talisman of the team for four years, although Marquez seemed to make headlines for the wrong reasons on a consistent basis. Backe, who was laid back, enjoyed a successful regular season tenure (winning the Eastern Conference crown), but again, could not get the team over the MLS Cup finish line.
Mike Petke (2013-2015) – 30-19-19
Backe’s assistant, Petke was tabbed as his successor, despite no head coaching history. What Petke, one of the most popular players in club history, might have lacked in superior tactical acumen was replaced by his passion and emotion, which sometimes would get the best of him. Under the Bohemia, N.Y. native, the Red Bulls won the 2013 Supporters Shield and came within a goal against the New England Revolution of reaching the 2014 MLS Cup. He surprisingly was replaced in January 2015 by Jesse Marsch as Red Bulls general manager Ali Curtis claimed the team wanted to take a new approach.
Jesse Marsch (2015-2018) – 75-32-44
Marsch, who accrued the most wins in Red Bulls history, guided the team to the 2015 Supporters’ Shield. That squad boasted a talented attacking midfield of Sacha Kljestan in the middle, flanked by Mike Grella and Lloyd Sam on the left and right wings, respectively. Add defensive mids Dax McCarty and Felipe and you knew where the high-powered engine of this team was. However, like many other club sides, the Red Bulls enjoyed great regular season success, but could not come close to grabbing the brass ring at MLS Cup in December.
Chris Armas (2018-2020) – 29-21-11
When Marsch was hired by Red Bull Salzburg, another assistant coach took the helm in Armas, a former U.S. international who had forged a reputation as the best defensive midfielder during his time in MLS with the Chicago Fire and LA Galaxy. Armas inherited a talented team and he retained Marsch’s philosophy of press, press, press. That resulted in yet another Supporters Shield in 2018, but it also resulted in more playoff disappointment. In 2019, the Red Bulls looked more like a mediocre team at 14-14-6 than a championship one. This year’s squad, interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and almost a month off after the MLS is Back Tournament, could never get on track and struggled to find the net. On Friday, Sept. 4, Armas was fired by new head of sport Kevin Thelwell.
Bradley Carnell (2020) — 3-3
Since taking over the reins Sept. 4, Carnell has directed the team and has done a decent job of stabilizing the team. As of Tuesday, the Red Bulls (6-7-2, 20 points) are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference; the top 10 teams qualify for the playoffs. After recording two wins in which they scored four goals in each match, the Red Bulls fell at Orlando City SC Saturday, 3-1. They host Inter Miami CF at Red Bull Arena Wednesday night. It was not immediately known whether he will be retained by the new coach.
Gerhard Struber (2020) – ????