New York Red Bulls Struber: MLS is “an excellent level“ – Clark “has the hunger” to make the next step

FPL360
By FPL360

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New York Red Bulls coach 

Gerhard Struber is trying to guide the New York Red Bulls to the MLS Cup—and despite a poor start is now in a good position. In an exclusive interview with Transfermarkt, the RBNY head coach speaks about his Red-Bull-DNA, the high level in Major League Soccer, RB Leipzig signing Caden Clark, and his time at Barnsley

Transfermarkt: Gerhard, how would you describe yourself in a few sentences?

Gerhard Struber: I am very ambitious, especially when it comes to my personal development and the development of my team. At the same time, I have learned over the last few years that one has to be flexible to work with different players and characters. I think that I can play various tunes and cover topics in leadership and tactical knowledge. Thanks to my UEFA Pro Licence, various internships, and experience at several clubs, I have developed a clear identity.

Transfermarkt: Have you internalized the Red Bull identity already?

Struber: I act through conviction regarding proactive football, but I also know that we have to answer for every phase of the game. For example, we also need to be in control and efficient when it comes to building from the back. What is important to me is always to make the sort of decisions with and without the ball that will make a difference at any point of the game.

Transfermarkt: You just celebrated one year at New York Red Bulls. How would you rate your time at the club thus far?

Struber: I knew that we would need to change a few things that were part of the mission when I took over the role. But it was also clear that at some point, we will have to talk about titles again, bring back the glory years. Because of that, it was important to change a few things. And I think we did a good job. We have created a clear brand in the way we play football—and that brand is becoming more successful.

Transfermarkt: The results haven’t been consistently good…

Struber: This year has been full of challenges. For example, the difficulties in the transfer market, the integration of new players, or the problems with work permits due to COVID. COVID influenced the entire season’s preparation. As a result, there have been ups and downs with a very young team, probably the youngest in the league—we are sort of the U23 of America (laughs). But now, after seven unbeaten games, we are back in the playoff race. Reaching the playoffs would be a major step in our development this year.

Transfermarkt: What has been the biggest challenge?


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Struber: That we have sold and bought many new players from different cultures and playing philosophies. With that in mind, to form a clear identity, convince the boys about our direction, and take them all along, without forgetting anyone, was the biggest step. In the end, it is important that we have a high spirit in the team and that the boys know how we are going to tackle a game. That wasn’t easy in the first phase, but in the last few weeks, which is reflected in the results, you can tell that we have become more stable.  

Transfermarkt: Where do you see the most potential to get better?

Stuber: We must become more effective going forward and score more goals. It isn’t a surprise that our biggest weapon is the transition game. What needs to change is that we must be more efficient and consequential in the final third.

New York Red Bulls: Struber “totally” believes in reaching the playoffs

Transfermarkt: You have already mentioned it. In the Eastern Conference, you are once again within a shout of seventh place and the playoffs. What are your goals for the rest of the season?

Struber: We totally believe that we can still reach the playoffs. We can do it, despite significantly lowering the average age of our team and the new situation—and then we want to get as far as possible. But what is more important to me is, what happens afterward, to achieve it all and play for trophies. That is the next step. When I look back at all our games and how close we were at times, then I think it is realistic to go for it next year.

Transfermarkt: When you were signed in October 2020, RBNY head of sport Kevin Thelwell said: “Gerhard’s playing style and experience in youth development align with our philosophy, and above all, as a person, he fits into our culture.” One year on, is that statement still accurate?

Struber: When it comes to the major headline, then we agree. It was accurate then and is still accurate today. And, nonetheless, there are still discussions on how we are moving forward. But that is part of the process, that we reflect on one another, to ask critical questions, and have a high standard. There is a good exchange of ideas, not just with Kevin but with the entire coaching team.

Transfermarkt: You have a direct comparison to your former positions. What defines football in Major League Soccer?

People in Europe look a bit down on MLS; they don’t look deeper when talking about the league. But as a coach, it is exciting to work here.

Struber: Football here is very physical, comparable with the Championship in England. But there is also a bit of a South American touch. There is a lot of creativity and love for the game. I know the English and Austrian league and have played in the Europa League with Wolfsberger AC. After one year in MLS, I can confidently say that the league is on an excellent level; tempo and intensity are very high. People in Europe look a bit down on MLS; they don’t look deeper when talking about the league. But as a coach, it is exciting to work here.

Martínez, Dike, Barco & Co. – The 25 most valuable MLS players

25 Ayo Akinola | $5.5 million | Toronto FC

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24 Cole Bassett | $5.5 million | Colorado Rapids

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23 Efraín Álvarez | $5.5 million | Los Angeles Galaxy

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22 Gustavo Bou | $6.6 million | New England Revolution

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21 Jonathan Osorio | $6.6 million | Toronto FC

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20 Mark-Anthony Kaye | $6.6 million | Colorado Rapids

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19 Hany Mukhtar | $6.6 million | Nashville SC

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18 Marcelino Moreno | $6.6 million | Atlanta United

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17 Santiago Sosa | $6.6 million | Atlanta United

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16 Brian Rodríguez | $6.6 million | Los Angeles FC

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15 Victor Wanyama | $7.15 million | Montreal Impact

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14 Rodolfo Pizarro | $7.7 million | Inter Miami CF

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13 Tajon Buchanan | $7.7 million | New England Revolution

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12 Carlos Vela | $8.8 million | Los Angeles FC

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11 Raúl Ruidíaz | $8.8 million | Seattle Sounders

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10 Yeferson Soteldo | $8.8 million | Toronto FC

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9 Talles Magno | $8.8 million | New York City FC

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8 Alan Pulido | $9.9 million | Sporting Kansas City

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7 Brenner | $9.9 million | FC Cincinnati

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6 Alejandro Pozuelo | $11 million | Toronto FC

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5 Lucas Zelarayán | $11 million | Columbus Crew

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4 Emanuel Reynoso | $11 million | Minnesota United

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3 Ezequiel Barco | $11 million | Atlanta United

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2 Daryl Dike | $11 million | Orlando City FC

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1 Josef Martínez | $13.75 million | Atlanta United

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Transfermarkt: Are the New York Red Bulls the ideal platform for talents on their way to Europe?

Struber: Of course! The way we play football is quickly becoming the standard in Europe. Young players get to play. A good example is Caden Clark, who will join RB Leipzig in the winter. Another example is Brenden Aaronson, who joined Salzburg from Philadelphia Union and is now pretty much a key player there. There are many interesting players in the league, and I can see that every week. And there are many where I have the feeling that they could make their way to Europe where they, thanks to their mentality—ambition and directness—can make a difference at top clubs.

Transfer to RB Leipzig: Caden Clark “always finds solution”

Transfermarkt: The 18-year-old playmaker Clark set a new MLS record thanks to a starting market value of €3 million. Do you believe he can make a quick transition to the Bundesliga?

Struber: One has to be patient. We all know that he is a big talent. But we also know the level Leipzig have reached. For a young player, he must receive playing time; that is the turbo in his development. One has to see how he develops until the winter and then discuss what next step makes sense. But that is in Leipzig’s hands. The boy is close to my heart because I have worked with him for a year.

Transfermarkt: What is special about Clark?

Struber: He is technically very gifted and has a good orientation on the field. His hunger and ambition to make the next step define him. He always finds solutions under pressure and in the tightest spaces; he is very ambitious. If everything continues this way, then he can have a career in Europe.

Transfermarkt: In how far does Red Bull set the benchmarks for the development of talent?

Struber: The RB philosophy is clear, but I don’t see it as a stiff prerequisite dictated by anyone. Every coach has their own believes that become part of the process. The bottom line is, you must know what is required at a top team and what the prerequisites are. As a modern coach, you have to be able to prepare young players for every circumstance. As a coach, it is always nice to experience when former players have international careers.

Transfermarkt: Your own coaching career started with RB Salzburg’s U15 and then had various roles at the Red Bulls but not just there. Which position influenced you the most?

Struber: The adventure in England had the biggest impact. After being at Wolfsberg in the Austrian Bundesliga, where everything went smoothly, the job at Barnsley made me grow on a personal level. Dealing with the relegation battle, the team hadn’t won in 17 games. Going in and trying to turn things around as the last-placed team had a big impact on me and changed my perspective on football.

Struber’s emotional time at Barnsley – Reached safety at the last minute

Transfermarkt: One year ago, New York Red Bulls bought you out of your Barnsley contract. Why did you leave the Tykes so quickly?

Struber: I knew about the possibilities that would be available to me once I return to Red Bulls, the goals, the players and the staff, the possibility to develop on a personal level. I learned a ton in this one year in MLS—and have been able to give quite a bit back.

Kaku, Verón, Klimala & Co. – New York Red Bulls Record Arrivals

Mandela Egbo | Signed from Darmstadt in 2020 | Fee: $110,000

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Dru Yearwood | Signed from Brentford in 2020 | Fee: $550,000

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Frankie Amaya | Signed from Cincinnati in 2021 | Fee: $950,000

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Plus $125,000 in performance-based incentives.

Tim Cahill | Signed from Everton in 2012 | Fee: $1.38 million

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Gonzalo Verón | Signed from San Lorenzo in 2015 | Fee: $2.2 million

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Mathias Jørgensen | Signed from Odense BK in 2019 | Fee: $2.2 million

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Patryk Klimala | Signed from Celtic in 2021 | Fee: $4.8 million

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Kaku | Signed from Huracán in 2018 | Fee: $6.05 million

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Transfermarkt: At Barnsley, you oversaw 39 games over the course of one year. What were the biggest impressions from that time?

Struber: There have been many moments but, in particular, the last game against Brentford.

Transfermarkt: The club you coached was on a relegation spot from the eleventh to the second last matchday…

Struber: Brentford was playing for promotion. Everything was on a knife’s edge. We really pushed hard during our match preparation. We played videos of family members. The night before the game, there were many emotional moments in which players sat with tears in their eyes. Those moments, in which it was less about tactics but about the x-factor in football, to motivate people, that was very emotional. I will never forget it.

Transfermarkt: Your contract runs until the end of 2023. Truth be told, how likely are you to fulfill the deal?

Struber: The project here in New York is very interesting, and I have a very close and trusting relationship with my team. I can certainly imagine staying for a long time to achieve our ambitious goal that we all have, to win the MLS Cup. We are dreaming about it. Next year we want to go on the offensive and win it. If we keep developing and make the right transfers in the next window, sign one or two good players, then we can be ambitious about winning the MLS Cup.

Transfermarkt: Jesse Marsch coached the New York Red Bulls from 2015 to 2018, then was an assistant at Leipzig before moving to Salzburg. Then he replaced Julian Nagelsmann at the German Bundesliga side. Would you like to copy him?

Struber: I wouldn’t say I like to look at others, even if I know about Jesse Marsch’s fantastic path. But I want to go my own path, which will make me successful but also, more importantly, happy. My path has not been planned; a lot was left up to chance. But I learned from all the places I worked at. And that is how I would like it to continue. Every job should help me reach the next level, and I want to leave my stamp wherever I work. Of course, I follow the German Bundesliga and the Premier League because I am interested in them and find them enticing.  

Transfermarkt: So you don’t have a career plan?

Struber: I haven’t written one down, but, of course, I want to work successfully in one of the best leagues at some point. I think I can. But every situation and framework must fit. I am working at a cool club where I have the freedom to be creative. I find that enjoyable. You never know what the future brings. I will always see what the best for me is, but also my club. After all, I have responsibilities in many directions.

Premier League and Austria: Struber honored by rumors 

Transfermarkt: Lately, there have been rumors about a move to the Premier League. You were also linked to Werder Bremen last summer. How hot were those stories?

Struber: Without revealing any details. I am happy that there are clubs in Germany and England that knock on the door and enquire. It is an honor. My work is being recognized. But at the same time, I am in a very fortunate situation at my current job; that is my focus.

Brenner, Talles Magno, Soteldo & Co.: The top transfers of the MLS Primary Window

Malte Amundsen | From Vejle BK to New York City FC | Fee: $1.44m

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Claudio Bravo | From CA Banfield to Portland Timbers | Fee: $1.5m

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Alexandru Matan | From FC Viitorul to Columbus Crew | Fee: $1.65m

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Rodrigo Piñeiro | From Danubio FC to Nashville SC | Fee: $1.7m

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Franco Fragapane | From CA Talleres to Minnesota United FC | Fee: $1.8m

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Dániel Gazdag | From Honvéd to Philadelphia Union | Fee: $1.8m

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Thiago Andrade | From EC Bahia U-20 to New York City FC | Fee: $1.8m

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João Paulo | From Botafogo to Seattle Sounders FC | Fee: 2.5m

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Tomás Pochettino | From CA Talleres to Austin FC | Fee: $2.5m

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Déiber Caicedo | From Deportivo Cali to Vancouver Whitecaps | Fee: $2.5m

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Alan Franco | From Independiente to Atlanta United FC | Fee: $2.8m

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Luciano Acosta | From Atlas Guadalajara to FC Cincinnati | Fee: $3m

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Franco Ibarra | From Argentinos Juniors to Atlanta United FC | Fee: $3m

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Adrien Hunou | From Stade Rennais to Minnesota United FC | Fee: $3.6m

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Erik López | From Olimpia to Atlanta United FC | Fee: $3.7m

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Gregore | From EC Bahia to Inter Miami CF | Fee: $4m

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Gadi Kinda | From Beitar Jerusalem to Sporting Kansas City | Fee: $4m

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Caio Alexandre | From Botafogo to Vancouver Whitecaps FC | Fee: $4m

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Isaac Atanga | From FC Nordsjaelland to FC Cincinnati | Fee: $4m

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Patryk Klimala | From Celtic FC to New York Red Bulls | Fee: $4.8m

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Santiago Sosa | From River Plate to Atlanta United FC | Fee: $5.45m

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Kévin Cabral | From Valenciennes FC to Los Angeles Galaxy | Fee: $5.9m

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Yeferson Soteldo | From FC Santos to Toronto FC | Fee: $6.5m

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Talles Magno | From Vasco da Gama to New York City FC | Fee: $8m

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Brenner | From FC São Paulo to FC Cincinnati | Fee: $13m

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Transfermarkt: Austrian national team head coach Franco Foda is under pressure. Your name is supposedly on the list as a potential successor. Would you be interested in the job?

Struber: First of all, Franco Foda is Austria’s national team coach; hence I will not talk about it. But it is nice to be mentioned alongside Ralph Hasenhüttl and Oliver Glasner. But it is too early to think about such things. I enjoy the day-to-day work with my team on the training pitch. As for the future, I would never completely rule out working as a national team coach; that is a big honor. But for now, I have other plans.

Transfermarkt: Who are your coaching role models?

Struber: There are a few, but, in particular, two people stand out, who inspire me and to whom I look up. On the one hand, there is Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool; he has done a fantastic job motivating his team over a long period of time. On the other hand, Ralf Rangnick has created a one-of-a-kind project in the Red Bull cosmos. His persuasiveness and tactical knowledge have influenced me while I was working in Salzburg.

Interview: Philipp Marquardt
Translation: Manuel Veth



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