HARRISON, N.J. – In a stunning announcement on the eve of the Red Bulls’ season opener, the MLS club said Friday that head of sport Kevin Thelwell had left to become director of football for Everton Football Club in the English Premier League.

No successor had been named.

The Red Bulls said they would begin “an extensive search” for a replacement.

“On behalf of the organization, we would like to thank Kevin for his contributions and efforts to the club over the last two years,” Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpré said in a statement. “We wish Kevin all the best, both personally and professionally, in his new endeavor.”

Thelwell was named head of sport in February 2020 and helped lead the club to back-to-back MLS Cup Playoff appearances. Over two seasons, he has made several acquisitions to build the roster, highlighted by Carlos Coronel, Caden Clark, Patryk Klimala, Andrés Reyes and Dru Yearwood. New York tied for fewest goals allowed in 2021, moving up from 14th in 2020.

“My family and I have loved every minute of working in the U.S. and in particular for the New York Red Bulls,” Thelwell said in a statement. “It has been an incredible period that I will cherish and feel that I am a much better head of sport for the experience. I feel I leave the shirt in a much stronger place than when I joined. The roster has been completely rebuilt; there is a clear sporting vision now in place as part of a strategic five-year plan; and the pipeline of young talent is now stronger than ever. I would like to thank the staff, players and fans for their support, and I am looking forward to continuing to be a fan of the Red Bulls in the future.”