Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
NEW YORK – Media and fans were not the only ones surprised by the recent departure of New York Red Bulls general manager Jerome De Bontin.
The club was, too.
Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh and head coach Mike Petke both stated at the club’s Media Day on Tuesday that they were shocked to learn earlier this week that De Bontin had left his post. De Bontin joined the team in October 2012 and his decision to leave came as both unexpected and puzzling.
“Clearly, that’s a situation that no one was happy about,” Roxburgh told SBI. “It was a surprise to me as well. I didn’t know. I was just told the other day what had happened. I don’t know any details about it. I spoke to Jerome last night for a short time. I don’t know what to say. My job was to be responsible for the sporting side.
“The business side of it is clearly not my domain and therefore I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that just at this moment in time. Like the rest of us, I look with great interest to see what will transpire there.”
Petke also did not want to comment too much on De Bontin’s exit, which occurred five days before the Red Bulls are set to open the 2014 season with a road match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“It’s always a shame and uncomfortable situation when someone who’s been here for a bit is gone, no matter what the reasoning is,” said Petke. “I had a good relationship with Jerome and I wish him the best. On the soccer side, we’re really focusing on this Saturday’s game.”
Here are more notes from Red Bulls camp:
HENRY PRAISES LUYINDULA
Peguy Luyindula has been receiving good reviews from the Red Bulls’ coaching staff since the start of preseason, and Thierry Henry believes it is simply down to the fact that his compatriot has finally gotten into a good rhythm.
Luyindula was often criticized last season, his first in MLS, for his failure to put away good-looking chances as a forward. But the tone towards him changed late in the year when he was deployed as a central midfielder and began putting in more effective performances.
While the positional switch may have something to do with Luyindula’s improvement on the field, Henry believes Luyindula initially suffered from the common problem that occurs when players join MLS clubs without having had a true or full preseason.
“Peguy is doing what Peguy does. Period,” said Henry. “It makes me laugh because last year everybody was (criticizing) him. Let the guy settle, let the guy have a preseason, let the guy work a little bit and then he showed midseason and at the end of the season that he was a player. As he wasn’t [playing] with Paris Saint-Germain, so he was lacking match fitness. That’s what he was lacking. We had the same problem with Tim [Cahill], we had the same problem with me. Everyone was [critical].
“If you come in a wrong way, Peguy will turn you and play every ball through. He’s clever on the ball. I’ve known Peguy since we were 19, 20, so I know exactly what he can do and what he can bring to the team. I understand also why people were [critical] but let him at least get his rhythm back and then judge him. I’m happy for him because people can see actually that he’s a player and it’s good that he’s with us. When that guy is on tune, he can unsettle any team in this league.”
CHRISTIANSON HINDERED BY SETBACKS
The lone Red Bulls player currently not healthy enough to compete is the same one that missed all of his rookie season last year with a knock.
Midfielder Ian Christianson did not feature in any of the Red Bulls’ preseason games in Florida this winter, and the reason for that is because he has had complications in his recovery from the fifth metatarsal injury that sidelined him for much of 2013.
“He’s still having a bit of setbacks, so it’s been tough for him, it’s been tough for all of us because of how much we think of him He’s still trying to get healthy and hopefully he’ll be healthy soon enough,” said Petke as he knocked on the table next to him at Media Day.
Christianson told SBI that part of the reason he feels he suffered a setback is because he rushed to get back to playing too soon. As a result, he plans on taking a more cautious approach this time around.
CAHILL SCORES TWICE TO CLAIM RECORD, MILLER STARTS IN INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLIES
Tim Cahill saw his Australia team lose its most recent World Cup tuneup, but the match was still a special one for him. Cahill became Australia’s all-time leading goal-scorer after bagging a brace in a 4-3 loss to Ecuador on Wednesday and the performance came at the home of his former club, Millwall. Cahill played 68 minutes in the friendly at The New Den.
Roy Miller, meanwhile, started and played 45 minutes for Costa Rica in a 2-1 friendly victory over Paraguay at Estadio Nacional in San Jose.