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Red Bulls introduce new GM

Erik Soler (NYRB)

The first impression you get from new Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler is that he is an intelligent and polished soccer man. You also realize that for all his experience and his diverse resume, Soler knows very little about the American game. He admitted as much on Monday, stating, "I'm not going to claim to be an MLS expert."

It is that fact that makes it difficult to call his hiring a complete success just yet despite the distinct impression that he may be the sharpest man Red Bull has ever hired to run its New York club.

Soler isn't worried about the track record that strangers to MLS have had in succeeding in the league, and isn't about to let that history force him to hire a coach with MLS experience. At the moment, he is open to the idea of hiring a foreign coach or an American coach. He has been made aware of the past struggles of foreign coaches without MLS experience, but insisted that he was not afraid to try things that have not worked in the past.

And if the club does hire a foreign coach? Soler made it clear that he expects to build a front office team capable of supporting a head coach and GM who don't know MLS. What Soler wouldn't address was the role former technical director and current team scout Jeff Agoos will have going forward. As it stands, sources have told SBI that Agoos is still working as the point man on MLS team issues and stands a good chance of being the lead contributor to the team's draft preparations.

Soler wouldn't confirm our report of Tony Adams being a candidate, and would only confirm Richie Williams as a candidate for the head coaching position. He would not put a timetable on when the club will hire a coach.

one positive that did come out of today's press conference included Soler's insistence that the Red Bulls would have a better and more productive working relationship with its sister club in Salzburg. In the past, Red Bull Salzburg has been accused of not doing enough to support the New York club, but Soler has made it clear that his relationship with Salzburg leadership should lead to a much better working relationship.

Our first impression of Soler is that he is a sharp executive with a solid knowledge of the sport, which already makes him an improvement over the past men Red Bull has hired to run the club. His decision on a head coach, as well as on a support staff to work with him and the new coach, will go a long way toward telling us just what kind of general manager he will be.

We will offer more from today's press conference later this afternoon, so be sure to check in here. For now, feel free to share your thoughts on Soler's hiring below.


  1. What does it mean to have a better relationship w/ Salzburg? Training stints for players in the off season? Chances to sign European players? Something else?

    So far as I know, not much has come of all the relationships MLS Clubs have with foreign clubs.

    (SBI-Only one team has the sort of connection Red Bull has with Salzburg, and that’s Chivas USA with Chivas. That connection has led to Chivas USA getting some players and a far more clear connection than what we’ve seen from Salzburg and Red Bull. The relationship means the potential for a variety of things, including having Salzburg loan players to the Red Bulls, and vice versa. In theory, Salzburg could sign a big-ticket player, and loan him to New York for a cut-rate price. That might seem like circumventing the salary cap but nobody stopped Seattle from it’s cozy arrangement that allowed the Sounders to have Montero and Hurtado at a cheap loan price. Ultimately, the point is Salzburg could have been doing more to help NY since buying the team, and just hasn’t (unless you count the Markus Schopp glory years.)

  2. Lalas? Really? He was a decent player but he is an IDIOT when it comes to soccer. have you ever listened to him on tv?! they’d be done if they hired lalas

  3. Wow.

    So the guy admits that he doesn’t know the MLS system, and then says he’s not afraid to try things that didn’t work…what makes him think they’ll work when HE tries them?!?!?

    Looks like another great hire…this f**king team is going to be the death of me.

  4. Things Red Bull has done that are good: built a stadium with no taxpayer financed money in Harrison, New Jersey, paid for a trip to DC for ESC the first year they owned the team, JPO as a DP

    Things Red Bull has done that are bad: No winning franchise, stayed in Giants Stadium a year longer than they should have, zero marketing to the Latino community, hired Jon Conway as a starting goalkeeper, kept Tony Meola on as a goalkeeper, hired and fired Bruce Arena, hired Juan Carlos Osorio, hired Eric “whatever his name is” who had no sports management or branding experience (he was top sales guy from New England), on and on and on.

    Where will this hire go? Probably in the later column unfortunately.

  5. Apparently Red Bull doesn’t have a clue what happened to their team last year…Right now it seems like they setting up for another failure…I mean why a foreign GM and why do they keep on mentioning foreign coaches…If they were smart they would hire a man who knows about MLS as their GM and what’s the hold up on naming Richie Williams as head coach…His proven on two occasions already that he can led this team

  6. Ives you are always on your game and I respect you more than any other writer about MLS That said Pleeeze will someone tell me why the F agoos is still around? He is the biggest screw up we have at RB and yet somehow he has staying power? We only have to go as far back as the last draft where he picked that African kid only to watch him never sign with MLS Everyone else knew that but agoos was asleep at the wheel as usual and we wasted a great opp?

    Need I go further with the COUNTLESS number of screw ups we can credit Agoos with? Someone explain why is the idiot still there,and poor Richie the only VIABLE guy is only one of several “possibles” We all know that a Foreign coach will be shoved down our throats and we all know it will be another disaster? Not that I am dissing a foreigner,but MLS has it’s own unique peculiarities that ONLY an American coach comprehends period?

    Coach K

  7. Well at least he is honest about his experience and his expectations seem pretty legit… unlike a certain Ruud Gullit. If he’s classy let him be, let’s not throw the first brick we see at him. I guess all we can say, for now, is “we’ll see”

  8. My impression:

    He interviews well and during the interview process he appears to be “a sharp executive with a solid knowledge of the sport”. We’ll see how long it takes for the shine to wear off. He sounds to me like he is full of crap.

  9. His last job with IK Start quoting Wikipedia:

    “He was a co-owner and the board-leader of the Norwegian football club IK Start from 2002 to 2008.”

    “2007 was a bad year for Start with problems working as a team and management issues. It lead to a disappointing 13th place, leading to Start’s relegation to Adeccoligaen.”

  10. According to Brian Lewis of the NY Post, Solér said:

    “We need somebody who’s on the pitch a lot. Looking at the Scandinavian model — where if your left back isn’t top-class, you can’t just buy two new ones — we need somebody who will work on developing players.”

  11. Best of luck to Erik. Its a big job and hopefully he’ll have the leeway to do things he sees fit. Anyone know what the story is now with Agoos? Hopefully, there are more plans than the inevitable DP which we will sign, which is hardly a secret at this point. I’ll be watching from my third row seats with great interest! Best of luck to him…

  12. The thing is, incoming coaches from outside MLS have to realize that they have to work for it here. That means scouting players (in MLS, outside MLS, and college prospects), running drills – you know, actually coaching. Developing players, which is what a coach is supposed to do. Guys like Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner (you can tell I’m a Revs fan) embraced this. Some others like Ruud Gullit bemoaned the fact they couldn’t just buy a team of whoever they wanted, and never put in the time and effort to do it right here. A lot of what MLS is about is developing the game in the US and developing talent, and the coaches coming in have to buy into that.

  13. Two Dutch coaches that are out of a job and I think are good enough to be able to manage a team in the US are Co Adriaanse and Ronald Koeman. Another great one would be Foppe de Haan (former Heerenveen, and under 21 holland coach). I’m afraid no coach with MLS experience would want to coach New York right now. That will kill their career…

  14. Bizarre that there are people out there that

    1) Want to jokingly impersonate someone on the internet

    2) Read this to themselves and think “Yeah, this is funny!”

  15. Ives,

    Getting someone named Guus Hiddink would perpetuate the past errors made by going for the big name coach which has always ended bad. I am not saying I would not love to have Guus coach the RB, but I don’t think the time is right. We have to grow as a league to be able to accommodate someone of that caliber.

    As per the 50% success rate, all it means is that it is a crap shoot and not a given. I guess it is a half full vs half empty situation.


    (SBI-I think it’s foolish to think that there isn’t A SINGLE foreign coach who could succeed in MLS. That’s a stretch, and I think someone like Guus Hiddink would win anywhere, at any level. That said, I think he would need an MLS-savvy technical director to help with college scouting, working the cap, and navigating the myriad of random MLS rules.)

  16. Ives, if Erik Soler is a sharp soccer guy…. question, what draws him to NY? did he have other opportunities in Europe that he turned down for this job?

    I don’t think it is the fact a foreign coach/gm struggles here as much as the attitude they bring with them to the mls… do they think they can learn something from the mls as much as they can contribute? or do they come with an attitude of I-know-everything-and-mls-wont-teach-me-anything-new? if it is the latter… could be another long season for NYB

  17. I don’t have a problem with a foreign GM but the fact that Agoof is still with the RBNY just creeps me out. He should be taken accountable for the disaster of the 2009 season…

  18. “but insisted that he was not afraid to try things that have not worked in the past.”

    You’re supposed to be afraid of trying new things, not be open to trying the same things over and over and expecting a different result. That’s the textbook definition of insanity.

  19. Ives, you are being a bit simplistic with regards to JCO. The guy was all about signing Latin players whom notoriously have issues with our league.

    He also refused to play certain players in positions (Jeremy Hall on the left), while playing other players with ZERO EXPERIENCE there (Kanji).

    (SBI-My comment was an attempt to breakdown everything that went wrong with the Osorio era, so please don’t try to make it about that. The point was that Osorio’s knowledge of the league wasn’t exactly that of someone who had been around the league for a while because he had been in working in other countries for more than six years so he wasn’t quite an “MLS guy” like someone like Richie Williams or Curt Onalfo would be. Agoos was the guy who was supposed to know MLS and the college game and what were the successful moves that he made?)

  20. Ives,

    For the sake of argument, let’s suppose Soler is a solid soccer GM and he does hire a coach with no MLS experience (not a big name but someone from a solid soccer program, ie. Dutch).

    If you had the chance to hire someone with the MLS know-how to be an assistant GM, who would it be?

    Also, would you say that of all the positions held by MLS insiders, the most you would get is a 50% success rate. I think for every front office person or coach that has had a positive outcome, you can also point to a negative one.


    (A 50 percent success rate is better than the success rate of foreign coaches without MLS experience in MLS. I believe that rate is zero, or at best much lower than 50 percent. Now, if NY can lure a Guus Hiddink, all bets are off, but when Tony Adams is the first foreign name linked to the club it’s not a good sign.

    As for people I’d hire as an assistant GM, that’s a good question. I’d have to think about that one. The best guys might not take an assistant’s positions.)

  21. Maybe this is just too obvious to suggest, but what about Klinsmann? If anyone can afford him, it’s RB, and he’s been here and knows the MLS and College soccer scenes as well as anyone. Ives, what do you think?

  22. The fact that not all coaches with MLS experience succeed in MLS doesn’t disprove the fact that ALL foreign coaches with no MLS experience have flopped in MLS.

    If part of coaching in MLS is being able to bring in players you know, then bringing in a European makes little sense, because all the guys he knows are either too expensive or too old.

    If you must have a foreign coach with no MLS experience, then somebody should hire Wilmer Cabrera and get an even more serious Colombian pipeline of players started. Those are the foreign players at the right price point currently succeeding in MLS. He could act like a magnet for more of them. And few people know young U.S. talent better than Cabrera.

  23. I would offer up that I would prefer to have a coach without MLS experience over a GM without MLS experience. If you have a coach who doesn’t know the ins and outs of the league, but have a GM well versed in them, I think it’s huge. Especially if the coach brings to the club solid tactics and coaching, things often missing in MLS coaches in my opinion. But to have a GM who is clueless into the unique rules, you will be severely hindered.

  24. JCO knows MLS too.

    Yeah, that worked out.

    (SBI-That’s not completely accurate. Osorio had been gone from MLS for six years when he jumped into the Chicago job, which consisted of running a team that was already pretty much built. Once he moved over to New York, and had to rely on Agoos to help provide some support on the MLS/college side as well as with managing the salary cap and finding bargains to fit the MLS salary structure, Osorio was doomed to struggle. He worked with what was left from Arena’s team to get the team to the MLS Cup, but eventually things were going to unravel because you had two guys in charge who just weren’t equipped to build an MLS team.)

    When I say a coach with MLS experience, you would want someone who actually knows what’s going on in the league and in college soccer today, not necessarily someone who has been out of the loop for six years.)

  25. It’s a complex question… is “having MLS experience” worth overlooking a quality coach from Europe? Do you take a significantly less capable candidate just because he “has MLS experience”?

    I would say no, because you can hire the MLS experience as far as allocation and cap concerns go (though it is vitally important that you have that knowledge on hand, of course). If MLS experience was all that was required, Mo Johnston would be doing much better than he is, and Osorio wouldn’t have been fired.

    You need someone with knowledge of the MLS financial system on staff. That person does not have to be the GM or coach (look at Agoos’ record w RBNY). Rather than combining these skills, MLS clubs should split these jobs… take a page out of the NFL, hire a “capologist” (but come up with a better name for them, like Assistant GM, please)…

  26. Ives, I was just thinking about Erik Soler being a GM not 12minutes ago, and then you come out with this story…. how about giving me some credit?

    (SBI-Funny guy.)

  27. I don’t think its impossible he’d be a sucess. I just think you have to respect history. At some point a foreign combo will be a sucess though.

    Hopefully its Soler.

  28. Being Arsenal through and through, it’d be great to see Mr. Arsenal manage an MLS club. Alas, also being a Union man, if it ends up being Red Bull, I’ll have to root against him! Still, I’d love to get the chance to have him sign my “Adams” Arsenal jersey from the ’98 double season!

  29. It’ll either be sink or swim for this guy. Personally, I thought they should have gone with Onaflo for the GM position.

    Ives, can you confirm that Richie Williams is no longer a candidate for the head coaching job at D.C. United?

  30. I forgot what number failure this is for red bull? The 1024th or 1025th? I lost track about 3 years ago…

    SBI – get an exclusive with this guy. I want you to play hardball with him. I want answers.

    (SBI-I was able to ask him some pretty direct questions today. He had some good responses that I will post shortly.)

  31. It doesn’t really matter if Soler thinks he doesn’t need MLS experience. Bottom line is… IT DOES MATTER. He’ll be out (with Agoos) within a year.


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