Dante Vanzeir is expected to get an opportunity to play against Montreal. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
Dante Vanzeir has been welcomed back to the Red Bulls – in a unanimous vote by his teammates.
Vanzeir, who was suspended by Major League Soccer for six games for making a racist comment to a San Jose Earthquakes player on April 8, will return to action against CF Montreal at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.
“This was unanimous, saying we absolutely want Dante back in we think that he’s learned from the situation and he understands the situation better and will understand moving forward that there’s still a lot of work to do,” head coach Troy Lesesne said during a media briefing on Friday.
It has not been easy for Vanzeir, who was expected to give the sagging Red Bulls attack a big boost. He was issued an undisclosed fine and participated in additional league-mandated training and education sessions, as well as a restorative practices program.
“The process started with Dante, number one,” Lesesne said. “Dante did a very good job of admitting to the mistake, owning the mistake, recognizing that it was a huge mistake. There were consequences that followed that for himself, for our club, for our supports, for San Jose.
“There were a lot of parties involved in this and he took ownership, maybe not in the immediate, but very shortly thereafter in order to start this process towards healing. He has gone through a rigorous process, one that the MLS has involved with, certainly our club has been involved with. We hired an outside firm to make sure that the restorative process was thorough.”
Lesesne said he was impressed with the way Vanzeir has dealt with his teammates during his suspension.
“Where I can give Dante the most credit is the way that he’s restored individual relationships within the guys that’s outside of a formal process,” he said. “This is what’s impressive to me, the most impressive thing is he’s taken the time to speak more individually with players and connect in smaller groups in his own genuine way. That’s not guided by anything other than his own human nature.
“Dante is now in a position where he’s able to be back with the team. But that’s been the decision through the process of the players, staff, club, that he’s allowed to come back now at this stage. If others aren’t there yet, supporters anyone else, that’s okay. That’s understandable in your own time.”
Vanzeir, 25, was acquired by the Red Bulls to boost their sagging attack. He has played in only six games over 204 minutes, scoring once off the bench.