The New York Red Bulls are less than a month away from starting the 2009 MLS season with the opening match vs. the Seattle Sounders and head coach Juan Carlos Osorio is as busy as a coach can be right now.
He has the Red Bulls in Argentina taking part in training while also continuing his search for defensive reinforcements. Osorio has spent every minute since the final whistle of MLS Cup 2008 trying to figure out how to strengthen a team that finished the regular season with a losing record and the reconstruction project is in full swing.
Osorio took some time out from that crazy schedule to answer some questions submitted by you, the SBI Readers. There were plenty of questions that went unanswered because of time constraints, but the ones Osorio did provide certainly give us some good insight into his plans and vision for the Red Bulls.
Here is the Osorio Q&A (comments in bold are SBI notes):
KPUGS– Coach, you have probably seen a lot more of Khano Smith than I have.
In my opinion, he is at best wildly inconsistent and at worst temperamental and wasteful offensively.
I realize this might be a biased opinion, so I'm wondering how he can help the team in your eyes, and whether you see him as a first XI starter. Thank you.
OSORIO– First of all, there’s no automatic positions in this team. We’ll have to show some consistency, but as you see in modern football, one of the key things to do is to rotate the squad. That’s what I intend to do. Especially going into this season where we will at some points be competing in three different competitions.
What I see Khano doing for this team is bringing the following traits: he can play in a 4-4-2 as a wide left midfielder, he can play in a 4-3-3 as a winger, right there we will have more options up front and hopefully we’ll be less predictable than we were at times last season.
His crossing ability is very good. His ability to run in behind defenders, whether at pace or dribbling, is also very good. I think we’re going to working on him closing and attacking the far post when we cross from the other side. With his height, I think we can benefit from that.
Also, in my research, I’ve found out he’s very good in the locker room, he’s an international player and in the last four seasons, he’s played in 85 games, that shows some consistency. I expect good crosses, many assists and hopefully a few goals that will help us have a successful season.
LAKAIX15– We know you are a Defensive minded coach, but with the trades and player movement made we look very fast and athletic, will you be changing your style of game?
OSORIO– I respect your opinion but if I have to describe myself I would say that I’m neither a defensive or offense coach. The game needs to be trained and prepared on both fronts. We, above everything else, need to play productive football. At some points last season we needed to defend more and we did that and were successful.
As you can see in our new signings, going into my second season in this league and being more in tune with the league, and with a little bit more resources, we have been strengthening the team in the attacking third. So hopefully we will have a well-balanced team that can defend properly, but can also attack, create and score goals.
DJ BONUS BEATS– Are you done with the 3-5-2 this year or will we see it again? Where do you see Stammler fitting in the line up?
OSORIO– One of the strengths of any team is being capable of changing formations, not only from game to game, but within a game itself. We did that last season. It also paid some dividends for us. Whether we play a 3-4-1-2, or 3-1-4-2, or with a 4-3-3, or 4-2-3-1, where I Seth contributing the most is in a central position as an anchorman. Whether we decide to play with one anchorman or two, he can play by himself or with someone else.
In any of those systems I can see Seth contributing. What he brings to the team in any of those systems will play a big role for us.
RANDALL– What role do you see Jeremy Hall playing on the team this season, and what is his longer-term ceiling?
OSORIO– I think Jeremy’s strengths are he’s a good passer, he sees the game well and early and he has ability to go into the box and score goals. He scored 14 goals last season in college. I would not expect that many, but I’m sure with time he will prove that he can score at this level. He’s a team player, he’s very dynamic and he can go box to box.
In our midfield we are looking for players that can distribute the ball, can compete, can regain possession, can keep possession and can help us score goals. We think he's capable of contributing all of that.
EUGENE– Is signing a homegrown youth academy player to a GA contract under consideration for this year at any point during the season? Will you review your homegrown players in the summer and potentially sign one to the first team?
At what position would you sign a 2nd DP either for this season or in the future?
OSORIO– It has been a possibility since the time that I came here, but I have to remind you that with the rules and restrictions in the league, we have to be very, very careful as to who we are going sign because we only get one chance to get it right. If we don't get it right then we will impede the other players' potential because we will not be able to bring someone else in for a long time.
There is always a possibility. In pre-season we brought a couple of guys from the academy and there was one player in particular who impressed us so hopefully that will be our first player coming from the academy to the senior squad and hopefully that will be soon.
(As for the DP slot) I have my targets as potential designated players but at this particular time I would rather use that money at two or three positions and strengthen the team in different areas, as opposed to bringing in just one player and strengthening one position.
(SBI)- Osorio wouldn't say who the player he liked was, but it's a safe bet the player is Haitian midfielder St. Cyr Widner. Widner has trained with the senior team in the past and looked very good.
A.S.– You now have quite a few speedy attackers on the team – Richards, Oduro, Kandji, etc. How will you be able to use their speed when some of your other main attackers – i.e., Rojas – seem (to put it kindly) not so fast?
OSORIO– There’s two types of speed in soccer. There are some players who are physically quick and fast, and we have some of them, but there are also, and this is equally important, players that can think quick and fast and I think Jorge can think fast and make plays. I am optimistic that with the options we have now in front of him, and with his passing ability, (Rojas) will be an influential player for us this season.
STAN FROM EL BARRIO– Coach. With the reserve league gone, how will bench & developmental players remain in "game shape" throughout the season?
OSORIO– I am extremely disappointed with the elimination of the reserve league because, working in England for six years, that was a big part of the development of the young players coming through the ranks. That’s how you can get games and you can also start them alongside senior players to help them develop and teach them the game. Unfortunately we will not have that opportunity this year so what we're trying to do is arrange as many games as possible so the inexperienced guys can get experience and be exposed to playing games that will definitely help them to become better professionals.
In our opening game we're trying to play a reserve game near Seattle. That shows our commitment to try and play games and give our players the best opportunity to develop. As far as other games, we will try to play against as many teams as we can and hopefully at some point we will have enough on our plate with those three competitions so that we can give each player a chance.
ALEX– Do you at all consider players from eastern european markets? For example most recently a Russian veteran, standout playmaker Egor Titov who only turned 32 was available for under 500k and ended up signing for some average club somewhere in kazakhstan. A very well known big name player from his days at Spartak Moscow and still has alot creativity and experience to offer. I think would been amazing compliment to J.P.Angel.
OSORIO– I would love to bring European players but the point is they are out of reach, the market for those players is unreachable. We cannot compete. We cannot look for European players to come here on salaries that we are capable of offering at the moment.
The markets I’m concentrating on are because they are achievable, reachable, and we aren't the only team looking in those markets. You have D.C., New England, Columbus and Seattle (among others). They have all gone to South American countries because those are the players who are available for the salaries we pay.
I have, I cannot name names, but I have spoken five different European players and they have all said to me, "Coach, money is not an issue." But then when we have come to money discussions, money is an issue because $300,000 for them is not a big deal, but for us it's a fortune. When you ask a player from Europe to come here for half of that it's almost like an insult. I had a case where I had to explain myself to the player because he thought I was insulting him.
It is an issue, and a big issue, because what European players consider not big money is big money in MLS.
THE NICK– Why is it that whenever there is a position which needs to be filled, we look to foreign born replacements before American ones? Do you feel that American options are really that limited?
OSORIO– I will be very specific. For the right position we looked at two Americans. I even made the best possible offer for a right back in the United States, but the team that I spoke to refused to take it. I waited for longer than two months, I grew impatient about that and that’s when I decided it was time for me to look in another direction.
As far as a left-sided player, there was a similar situation. We offered a club here, for an American player, allocation money that would have been probably the highest ever paid for a player and they didn’t want to take that option. Again, I grew extremely impatient about that and I started looking somewhere else.
As far as a striker, similar situation. To answer that, in every chance I have tried to bring more American players, especially players from around New York, but if you look at the history in this league, it’s very difficult to deal with another team, especially when you are talking about players who teams considered some of the best on their roster.
I do think it's a very unfair comment (that I haven't looked for American players). We did look and in one case, if we would have paid the allocation money, and that player would have gone abroad, the fans would have probably criticized me for spending so much money on basically a loan, so I wound up not taking that chance.
Whether we are successful or not, and whether I will be here for a long time or not, I want to leave a legacy in this club and the way to do that is to bring in young players and players who potentially have a lot more to give. Hopefully that will continue to be the case.
(SBI)- Sources tell me that the two players the Red Bulls made offers for were Chivas USA and U.S. national team defender Jonathan Bornstein and Real Salt Lake fullback and New York native Chris Wingert.
CONNOR– What are you hoping to get out of Oscar Echeverry? He only played a few games last year and has not trained with us fully this preseason but he is still on the roster. Does he have a guaranteed contract or something because many fans are curious as to why he is still here but a promising player like St. Preux got cut?
OSORIO– The situation with him is very clear. We are trying to rehabilitate his knee. He had a very difficult surgery. Unfortunately for Oscar he got injured and couldn’t contribute (last year). I know what he’s capable of. However, there’s a time limit here and he has some very tough competition in front of him. I still have a couple of weeks and hopefully by the end of this month you will all know my decision as far as that.
CINDY– Coach, are you looking into getting the rights to Jeff Parke back from Seattle / are you even interested in doing so? Are you instead moving on and looking for different defenders and if so where and how is that search going? Thank you!
OSORIO– I put a lot of effort into trying to keep Jeff last season. I valued his contribution in the games that he played and therefore I tried to keep him here, but if I am honest, his goal was to move to play in a foreign country. If I’m not mistake he has done that. When I was aware of that then we tried our best offer and it wasn't something that convinced him to say.
I have been in this game long enough to realize that each professional this is how players make their lives and they also have goals and dreams and objectives in life. I am one to respect that.
I want to thank Jeff for his contributions last season and wish him the best wherever he goes.
(SBI)- From what I have heard, the Red Bulls made an offer that would have doubled Parke's salary (he made about $57,500 in 2008). Parke was looking for three-times his 2008 salary to seriously consider staying in MLS.
What did you think of Osorio's answers? Share your thoughts below.
This was a great read and I appreciate JCO’s candor and responses.
I agree with many of the posters here that this was a great feature and I want to say thanks Ives. It would be cool to continue this feature with other coaches and perhaps players.
Great interview, Mafia. I appreciate the candid, personal responses and occasional smackdown.
In a league so ready to hit us with the non-disclosure quote (or just silence), it is truly refreshing to get a glimpse of both on-field and behind-the-scene issues.
How many times this season can we do this, Ives and JCO?
Thanks to you and the classy brother we have for a coach.
Oh and P.S…Of course I would invite Mi Amor, all their families, Dave Martinez, and last but not least, the well spoken Ives!
This is amazing…well done. I had a million questions to ask, so I didnt! I too thought he showed a new side to us, of which we are appreciative. It would be fun to cook up a big lasagna and invite JCO, Ray Hudson, Pat Riley, and Steve Spurrier to chat!
He truly is the special one. Huge amount for respect for Osorio for answering these questions honestly. Glad to see a public figure answer questions without politicking. Benefits them in the long-run. I feel more comfortable about my team’s buildup to the season now
I thought JCO was very good with his answers.
Ives, I will echo that you are, indeed, the man!!!
Seriously, that was the best training camp piece I’ve ever seen. I like JCO generally, but his frankness really impressed me.