Henry, Red Bulls hope recent changes finally bring glory

Reuters, Wednesday 27 Feb 2013

Henry is entering his fourth season in USA

The New York Red Bulls head into this weekend's new Major League Soccer (MLS) season hoping that their latest personnel reshuffle will finally deliver a maiden title after an 18-year wait.

Former France and Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, who is entering his fourth season with the club and is the face of the franchise, certainly needs no reminding of the expectations.

"This organisation and the fans have been waiting a very long time to get a trophy and so hopefully in my time we are going to be able to bring it back to New York," he told Reuters during a recent interview at MLS Media Day.

"If you can find some consistency that can always help. We have a new coach, new staff, new players. It is easy to talk at the beginning of the season about what you are going to do and so on - we need to get into a consistent rhythm."

Consistency, though, is something that has been sorely lacking at the club.

Founder members of the North American league, the Red Bulls are already on their 14th head coach and eighth general manager/technical director.

Austrian energy drink producers Red Bull are the third set of owners of the team, originally known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, and they are putting their faith in a combination of European expertise and local passion.

Former Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh has been appointed to oversee football operations, bringing his vast experience from nearly 20 years working in charge of coaching development with European soccer's governing body UEFA.

Roxburgh will work under Frenchman and former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, who works for the Red Bull company as their global director of football also covering the firm's teams in Salzburg, Leipzig and Sao Paulo.

"To have someone of Andy's caliber and experience shows the strength of our commitment to make the New York Red Bulls one of the best franchises in U.S. soccer," said Houllier.

But in MLS, with its American-sports style salary caps and other restrictions, foreign expertise has rarely proved enough.


That is where the Red Bulls are hoping the experience of new head coach Mike Petke proves to be decisive.

Petke, who played for New York until 2010, holds the club's record for appearances having featured in 169 games, and had been working as an assistant coach.

The appointment of the 37-year-old New York native raised some eyebrows given that the Red Bulls had mainly been linked with foreign coaches such as Portuguese Paulo Sousa and Scotsman Gary McAllister.

But while Petke was unlikely to have been the Red Bulls' first choice and is without head coaching experience, he does offer plenty of knowledge of the league and the passion that comes with being a one-club player for his local team.

"For Petke to be the manager is unbelievable. For the club, the league, the Red Bulls, it's really important that we make inroads," ex-Everton and Australia midfielder Tim Cahill said at the MLS media event.

"For the league, it's brought some massive credibility to the Red Bulls. A real identity with the fans and, for me, it's what the team needs. He's a boss that knows a lot about the team, and in the infrastructure from bottom to top."

On the field, New York can call on foreign talent in the form of Henry, Cahill and Brazilian veteran Juninho Pernambucano.

But lack of quality in the playing staff has not been the main problem for the Red Bulls in their recent failed attempts to stop the L.A. Galaxy from their two straight titles.

There were rumours of discord last season and plenty of criticism from fans of then-head coach, Swede Hans Backe.

While current players are unwilling to talk about the team's issues last year, former Red Bull Dwayne De Rosario, a Canadian international now with D.C. United, offered some insight.

"It was a team where you couldn't go wrong. I think he (Backe) had all the tools, and he just didn't know how to use those tools, no disrespect," said the 2011 MLS Most Valuable Player.

Henry dismisses talk of dressing room unhappiness last year as "rumours and stories" but there is certainly a very different mood around Red Bull Arena ahead of the new season.

Cahill believes that with the right approach the good times could be around the corner for the club.

"Loyalty, consistency and good discipline - all those things go hand in hand in this game," Cahill told Reuters.

"If we can stay loyal and keep the team together long enough then definitely something can happen with this football club."

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