BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh told local media that he would be looking at both European and American options as the New York Red Bulls continue to vet their coaching prospects.
Could Tony Meola be on that short list?
Though he doesn’t have professional coaching experience in the top ranks, the Hall of Fame goalkeeper has a history in New York both with the Metrostars and as a member of the Red Bulls. He has consistently trained MLS goalkeepers throughout the years and has also been heavily involved in U.S. soccer youth development. His wish to enter the professional coaching ranks is also no secret, most recently telling NY Times reporter Clemente Lisi he “wants to coach at the highest level.”
Meola met with Red Bulls President Jerome de Bontin and expressed his desire to return to the team. Though coy about his intentions, he revealed another meeting would take place shortly between him and senior Red Bull officials.
“I’m going to meet again with Red Bull,” Meola told SBI. “I did speak to (Red Bulls Global Director of Soccer) Houllier briefly in New York and Los Angeles. We have known we will sit down with Red Bull brass after the MLS Cup.” Houllier, who has reportedly traveled back to Europe, would not be part of those meetings.
“I think it’s time for me to get involved,” he continued. “I’ve taken time figuring out what the right situation was and this hopefully will be what I hope to be the right situation.”
There has been a disconnect between both former player and organization since his departure back in 2007. “Well when I played at Red Bull, it was the beginning stages,” he recounted. “We didn’t really get a great feel for the organization. When they finally did the stadium, and everything changed, I had zero contact with Red Bull. They never once called me. Matter of fact, when I finally had contact through another coach in the league that called me, he said ‘Hey, you need to go tall to Erik Soler. He didn’t know you were living in New Jersey!’
“I was flying in under the radar,” he conceded, “but when (management) changed, I wanted to make a point of trying to find a friend to introduce me to Jerome. I wanted to make a point to introduce myself to Jerome to at least to say I live in New Jersey! That’s how the whole thing started.”
Once Meola had his desired audience, he made an impassioned pitch to return. “They are looking for guys who care about the organization, who understand the organization, understand the area,” he said. “I told them look, I have one thing that burns in my stomach every day of my life and I don’t regret a lot – I don’t regret anything I did in soccer really – except that I never won a championship in New York.
“I don’t care how far you look,” he continued, “you will never find somebody that it burns more than me. I’ll never have the opportunity again as a player but I may have the opportunity in another way and I want to explore that.”
Sources close to the situation say his name has been discussed, but as part of a larger scale plan to revamp the coaching staff. Interim coach Mike Petke continues to be in the team’s long term plans but not necessarily as the eventual head coach. This week, another post opened with the firing of goalkeeping coach Todd Hoffard. Meola has shown no desire to take up a goalkeeping coach position. He is looking for something bigger.
“Jerome knows where I think I can help out both on and off the field and it’s up to them to figure out where I would fit into their plans if any,” he concluded. “I don’t know what will happen. I know I told Jerome that I think I can help in a few areas and those areas I will keep between him and I and the rest of the group when I meet them.
“I’m looking forward to having a discussion and seeing what the thoughts are.”