Days after failing to come to a contract agreement with the Red Bulls to make him the team’s first academy product to graduate to the first team, Matt Kassel was at Red Bulls training once again. There was no animosity from Kassel, who revealed that the team did in fact offer him a developmental contract, which he and his family rejected.
"They offered a developmental contract and that’s not something we’re interested in," Kassel said. "I’m not accepting a developmental contract at the moment."
"My father and Agoos met and they had a meeting about contracts and that’s what came out of it," Kassel said. "From what I understand the Red Bulls didn’t want to offer me Generation adidas right now but the league wanted to."
Red Bulls technical director Jeff Agoos would not confirm that the club offered Kassel a developmental contract, but offered his explanation for why the club chose not to offer Kassel a Generation adidas contract.
"We think there needs to be more development but we think he has a very bright future with this club," Agoos said. "We think Matt is an exceptional player and person and this allows us to continue his development with the first team as well as assess him in the college environment and I think it’s more a question of when rather than if with Matt."
Kassel did not show any signs of being upset with the situation and plans to continue training with the club. He expects to keep training with the first team until it is time for him to head for the University of Maryland in the late summer.
"It’s a great club, I love being here and I’m going to continue being here every day," Kassel said of the Red Bulls. "I’m going to continue to work hard, improve day in and day out until I know what I want to do.
"Right now I plan on attending the University of Maryland for the first year," Kassel said. "At the end of the day I’ll see where my options lead. I’m not going to guarantee where I’ll wind up.
"If I’m here or somewhere else, I’m not going to say anything about that," Kassel said. "Just because I didn’t get offered a Generation adidas right now doesn’t mean I won’t get offered it later on."
Agoos cited the club’s desire not to rush Kassel along despite his status as the best player in the Red Bulls Academy.
"We feel that, with a Generation adidas contract and being the first homegrown player and every thing that’s involved with that, we wanted to make sure that Matt had all the tools and every advantage he could before he steps into that position," Agoos said.
"It’s certainly a contract that on our end we need to make sure it’s handled the right way," Agoos said. "We want to make sure Matt is ready to take that next step and we just think he needs a little more time."
Agoos downplayed the possibility of the club coming back with a Generation adidas offer before Kassel goes to Maryland.
"I don’t think the progress that Matt needs to make is something that will happen in two months," Agoos said. "But is it something that happens by the time he finishes his first year in college? Possibly."
Kassel will now focus on training with the Red Bulls and finishing high school before embarking on his college career.
"I’m going to enjoy myself both ways," Kassel said. "I chose Maryland for a reason. It’s a great school, great place and great soccer atmosphere for me. I feel that I can continue to develop there, get games and get some minutes there.
"It’s not a downfall for me because I’m going to keep training with the first team guys here all the way until I go to college," Kassel said.
So what’s my take? I wrote a piece this morning laying out why the club passed on signing Kassel now and while I can understand the Red Bulls being prudent, I probably would have signed Kassel if I were in charge. As it stands, the Red Bulls feel Kassel still has some growing to do as a player and isn’t yet a can’t miss prospect.
What I did find interesting was Agoos’ unwillingness to admit that the club actually offered Kassel a developmental contract. That’s probably because that bit of information doesn’t quite go with the club’s "We didn’t think he was ready to make the jump just yet" explanation.
Nobody should feel bad for Kassel though. He has kept his professional freedom intact and could theoretically head to Europe next winter if he impresses scouts this fall in college. Red Bulls fans are already dreading another Gabriel Ferrari situation, and while that is a possibility, the sense I get from Kassel is that he does want to wind up with the Red Bulls. He isn’t going to come out and say that publicly because that really doesn’t help his bargaining position but I’m sure he can look at the success Michael Bradley is enjoying in Europe now after an apprenticeship with the MetroStars as a template for how his career could go if he starts out with the Red Bulls.
So yes, the Red Bulls wouldn’t have been wrong to sign Kassel with the Generation adidas contract, but I also don’t think it’s the end of the world that they didn’t, which some Red Bulls fans clearly seem to think.