The New York Red Bulls want to get back to competing for trophies. Denis Hamlett made that abundantly clear on Thursday.
The Red Bulls announced their end-of-season roster decisions on Thursday afternoon, and Hamlett, the club’s sporting director, spoke shortly thereafter about his strategy heading into the offseason. Hamlett touched on a number of topics in a wide-ranging conference call with reporters, including whether the Red Bulls will fill their now two vacant Designated Player slots following the departure of legendary striker Bradley Wright-Phillips.
“We don’t want to just look at just specific roster designation,” said Hamlett. “I think what we want to look at and focus on is (adding) the right players that are going to make our team better. In that process, if it happens to be a young DP or a DP or (Targeted Allocation Money) level, we’re going to have the resources to go out and get those players.
“We’ve set ourselves up with our budget that we’re in a good position that we can bring players in to make our team stronger.”
Hamlett cited the the Red Bulls’ global network and bolstered scouting department as tools the club will use this winter to try and find players that both fit their locker room and unique style of play. He added he wanted players who were also “leaders” and “winners”, but that does not necessarily mean they have to be Designated Players.
“I think if it has to be a young DP or a DP, I’ll make sure I go to my ownership group and make a strong case to bring those types of players in,” said Hamlett, “because we want to get back to the level, the standard that we’re accustomed to, which is being a team that competes for championships.”
There are, however, currently plenty of questions as to whether Hamlett can do the job of significantly improving the roster. The club did not make many significant additions during the past two transfer windows under Hamlett’s watch, and that contributed in part to a mediocre 2019 campaign.
Still, Hamlett believes the fan base should have confidence in his ability to make impactful signings.
“In my time here, we’ve had two Supporters’ Shields, (a U.S.) Open Cup run. We’ve had success. We just haven’t had the ultimate success, which is the MLS Cup,” said Hamlett. “At the end of the day, there’s only one team that can end up winning it and that’s a hard thing to do. Trust me, we are at it trying to get to a place where we can bring that trophy here.
“As a club, we’ve had success since I’ve been here and you can go back to the years before me. Three Supporters’ Shield and making the playoffs (10 seasons in a row) and having quality players that represent the national team throughout, I think that just speaks volumes. We’re committed to winning. We’re not satisfied with what happened in 2019. I can assure you of that.”
Here are more Red Bulls notes:
RBNY open to transfer offers for Long
If the rumor mill is to be believed, Aaron Long is once again the target of European clubs.
Long has been linked with several teams in recent days, including Southampton and Marseille, but Hamlett did not confirm on Thursday any outside interest in the centerback. Hamlett, however, made it clear that none of his players were off limits while adding that they needed to stay fully focused on the Red Bulls regardless of if there is a chance to move abroad.
“Aaron is under contract with us for next season and what I’ll say is if there’s offers for our players we will consider them individually, assess them, and figure out our decision,” said Hamlett. “The one thing I would say is I think our league has moved into a new space. I think not just us but I think teams across the league have dealt with transfer requests from overseas during different times of the season and how those things become distractions.
“I think that’s something as a league and as individual clubs and even here with us, we have to make sure we do a better job with the players and understand that at the end of the day, ‘You’re a professional, this is your club, this is where you show up where you perform and moving forward.'”
Negotiations ongoing to bring back Sims
Speaking of Southampton, Hamlett said the Red Bulls are in negotiations with the English club to try to bring back Josh Sims. The Red Bulls had Sims on loan during the second half of the 2019 season, but the deal that was brokered did not come with an option to buy.
“When we did this it was just a six-month loan just to sort of test it out for him to see if this was somewhere he could see himself playing,” said Hamlett. “I think he was surprised by the play of our league, the way we play in terms of our culture we have here. I think we left a good impression on him, and I think he was excited about that.
“…We’ve had some positive discussions with Southampton in trying to bring him back so we’ll make sure we’ll continue to have those discussions moving forward.”
Murillo returning to provide competition
One player who is set to return to the Red Bulls in 2020 is Michael Amir Murillo, the Panamanian fullback that fell out of favor this year. Hamlett said Murillo was brought back because he is a talented player and because the club wants to have options at every spot.
“We’re trying to make sure that when we build the roster for next season that I give my coaching staff and the head coach competition in every position and he can choose which player steps on the field,” said Hamlett. “At the end of the day you want to have not just an 11-, 12-man roster, but you want to have a deep roster because we want to compete and get back to (Concacaf Champions League), we want to do well in the Open Cup, and we want to do well in the league.”