Gerhard Struber: “We need patience, we need a big belief in us.”
By Michael Lewis
That’s what Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber plans to have with his young team this MLS season.
The Red Bulls kicked off preseason training Monday with one of the youngest, if not the youngest squad in the league.
The 28 players on the roster have an average age of 23.4.
And while a number of those performers are talented, young players make mistakes and could take a while before they find a rhythm and get their act together.
At the present time, it doesn’t seem there are plans to bring in a veteran impact player to the club. The management is more focused on bringing players in who fit the team’s philosophy. Over the past five seasons, the Red Bulls have played high intensity soccer, trying to turn games into half-field encounters.
“The new players, the old players, they’ll need to work together with our ideas and make a big impact in the game,” he said. “I think in our philosophy — it’s teamwork, togetherness. That’s the biggest impact. For that, we need to integrate the philosophy in the next few months. We need patience, we need a big belief in us.
“I believe in the players that we have in this moment, and I’ll integrate my plan with those players. In the end with the whole team, [we need] a big impact. We need the whole team, this is, for my philosophy, the most important thing.”
Struber has a history of dealing with younger players.
When he was employed by Red Bull Salzburg he directed the Under-15 to through U-19 at the Austrian club from 2009 through 2018 before he became Barnsley coach in 2019.
Whether he can bring his magic to the Red Bulls, it remains to be seen.
The Red Bulls have only two players over 30 – midfielder Daniel Royer and goalkeeper Ryan Meara. The next closest player is midfielder Sean Davis, who is 27.
During the winter, the Red Bulls added several players on loan. While the team has had loan players in the past, there are many more this year.
“I’ve had very good experience with this sort of model at Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League,” Red Bulls head of sport Kevin Thelwell said. “It’s an opportunity to see how players grow and acclimate, sometimes players find it very easy to move from one country to another. But, of course, we recruited some young players and sometimes they find it difficult. Getting to know them a little bit better, especially at a time where we can’t go out and meet them directly and we can’t scout them directly. Having that flexibility that allows us to try-before-you-buy, if you want to call it that, is a model I think should be interesting for everybody, especially when we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
“We are of course, very confident that these players are going to be capable of doing exactly what we want them to do but of course sometimes they don’t quite settled, and it doesn’t quite work out so to have that flexibility that allows them the opportunity to feel as if they can settle into life in New York is very important,” he added. “Again, it’s a model I’ve used lots of times before at Wolves when we took Raúl Jiménez and when we took Diogo Jota, players of that sort of level, and it worked very successfully there and I’m sure it can work very successfully here as well.”