New York Red Bulls have historically done things differently than most teams in MLS and will continue that trend on Saturday when they initiate new head coach Gerhard Struber in the team's knockout playoff game against the Columbus Crew SC. The game which represents a continuation of New York's success in qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs comes with some concern as to whether or not Struber can manage in a league that has troubled European managers in the past.
"We would have wanted Gerhard to come in earlier," said Head of Sport Kevin Thelwell. "I'm delighted that he's in in any stage of the season, to be honest. There is a reason why we recruited Gerhard and worked very hard to get him. That's because he was the outstanding candidate in the process. We think he's going to be able to give us the experience and expertise to help us be successful."
There is little doubt that Struber is one of the up-and-coming managers and has had tremendous success in different leagues. Not only did he keep Barnsley from relegation in the EFL Championship but he also knows Red Bull soccer from the inside and out with experience in the Austrian Bundesliga. The only issue is whether or not he can adapt quickly in a league which is diverse and plays a style of football that some see as more physical than what is expected in Europe.
The other question that is asked is why now?
It appeared as if Bradley Carnell had stabilized the squad and had them playing in a way that frustrated some of the better teams in the league. While it was never going to be Carnell's job, it is surprising that the move came so suddenly and could play a factor in the outcome of the game on Saturday.
"It's not just about one game for us," said Thelwell. "It's also about the long term and what he's going to bring. He's had fantastic experiences in both Austria and also more recently in the UK. We think that's going to be absolutely vital to us in what are going to be these crucial games."
Red Bulls are putting their eggs in the Struber basket. Success against Columbus will have to be seen as a huge success given how well of a season the Crew have had. A loss will leave the door open to massive criticism as to whether Carnell should have seen out the season. Either way, New York have never been shy when it comes to making dramatic decisions and this one is no different.