New York Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber has a unique opportunity to make a first impression in his new job, a debut in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
After being named the new head coach of the Red Bulls in October, Struber has been awaiting the approval of his U.S. work visa before taking charge. Interim head coach Bradley Carnell, who helped qualify for the playoffs, hands the keys over to Struber to take on the Columbus Crew.
“I think it’s a special situation for me and also for my team,” Struber said. “Right now I have the responsibility for the development, the responsibility for the results, and also I make the decisions from now.”
Once his visa was approved, Struber followed COVID-19 protocol for traveling to the United States, getting tested before and after arriving last week. In New York, Struber isolated while working with the league to plan a safe way for him to begin work.
Struber led three training sessions this week alongside assistant coach Bernd Eibler. They were at a safe distance from the team, wearing masks and avoiding offices and meeting rooms. Both will be cleared for full duties on Saturday in Columbus.
“I think we handled that in a very good way at the moment,” said Struber. “My players, when we have the chance to come together on the training pitch, I can feel a big attention and a very good mood.”
The team faced Columbus once this season, falling 2-0 in the MLS is Back group stage. In his first press conference as head coach, Struber said that he and his staff watched the game, and many others from the Crew, making adjustments in training ahead of Saturday’s clash.
Struber joins from English Championship side Barnsley, where he joined last November and helped secure the team’s safety from relegation. Following the firing of Chris Armas in early September, the Red Bulls were keen on Struber, even paying Barnsley an undisclosed fee to release him from his contract.
What head of sport Kevin Thelwell liked most about Struber is his ability to work with younger players. After his playing career, Struber began coaching youth teams at Red Bull Salzburg before leading first teams in Austria and eventually England.
“Without question throughout the whole time we were conducting this search for the new head coach, he was without question the outstanding candidate,” Thelwell said.