Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
NEW YORK – The LA Galaxy will not be the only MLS club with a team playing in USL Pro in the near future. Not if the New York Red Bulls have their way, anyway.
Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh said at the club’s Media Day on Tuesday night that his club is well on its way to fielding a second team in the United States’ third division, but that it likely will not happen until the beginning of next season. The Red Bulls had initially attempted to get a team off the ground for this season, but could not pull it off in time and are now confident of doing so ahead of the 2015 campaign.
“We’ll definitely do at the end of this year, because the league are now telling every club they need to do it so it won’t be a debate,” Roxburgh told SBI on Tuesday. “The third-division team, the (USL Pro) team, I’m sure everybody will be doing it at the end of this year and we’re certainly wanting to do that. We see it as a big, big advantage to have that rather than a Reserve Team because of the regular fixtures, we’ll own the players (and) not the league, and so on and so on, so we see it as a big, big move and a big advantage.”
Roxburgh’s comments reveals Major League Soccer’s push to have its clubs establish USL Pro teams, which would be a major step forward for player development in a league where younger players continue to struggle for playing time and opportunities to develop.
As part of that move to add a USL Pro team, the Red Bulls are currently in the process of renovating the brand new training facility that they opened last year. The club is adding locker rooms and bleachers in preparation for the arrival of the third division side, which Roxburgh said will play its home games at the facility.
The Red Bulls believe that will help them not only develop future talent, but keep it as well. Last month, Homegrown Player Amando Moreno became the latest youngster to leave the club, joining Liga MX side Club Tijuana on a free transfer after turning down the Red Bulls’ offer on his option.
The news was surprising given that Moreno had just signed his first professional contract with New York in December 2012.
“That would’ve been an enormous (help),” said Roxburgh when asked if having a USL Pro team would’ve aided the Red Bulls in keeping the 18-year-old forward. “We would’ve immediately signed him and no argument about it. That’s a special case that because we kept him (in camp with us). The trouble was, and we were stuck because of the salary cap, if he didn’t take our offer then he could move on, but it seemed crazy to me. I’m going, ‘Why?’, and discussions with his agent, they decided to that.
“Personally, I’m extremely disappointed that he wanted to do that. We were really taking care of him. Bluntly, we helped him get into the U.S. Under-20 team. We had a lot to do that. We did a lot to help him and therefore we feel really, really disappointed about what happened. We wish him all the best, a great boy, but I think he’s been badly advised in that particular case, but it was a special case and it’s not because we wanted to let him go.”
Moreno’s departure added to the stigma that the Red Bulls are a club that only focuses on the now and does not cater to the future, but New York has been in the process of creating a second team that will help them develop players for some time now.
Last month, the LA Galaxy became the first MLS club to launch a USL Pro team, an innovative move that drew critical acclaim.
What do you think of the Red Bulls’ plans to launch a USL Pro side? Excited? Would you attend games at the training facility?
Share your thoughts below.