UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – If the New York Red Bulls are distracted by the recent demotion of former general manager/sporting director Erik Solér, they are not admitting it.
Two days after the Red Bulls announced that Solér would step down from his two positions with the club in favor of Jérôme de Bontin, the Red Bulls touched on the hot topic, which arrived at an odd time given that the playoffs are about a month away.
Head coach Hans Backe refused to comment on either that matter or his own contract status, other than to say he has spoken to Solér since the move was announced. But the players alluded to it and all are adamant that they will not let it affect them.
“I’m a footballer, not a businessman,” Tim Cahill told reporters on Thursday. “Regardless what goes on behind the scenes, our main effort is to play football for the club and put the jersey on and giving everything. That’s definitely not my side, so that’s for the coach, I suppose.”
In the eyes of most fans and pundits, Solér had done a fairly solid job in 2012. He acquired goalkeeper Bill Gaudette in a bargain deal, received allocation funds in exchange for two players who were not on the Red Bulls roster (Alessandro Nesta and Quincy Amarikwa), added Lloyd Sam and more.
That did not stop the Red Bulls organization from replacing him with de Bontin, a member of the Investment Committee of the US Soccer Foundation and former president of French club AS Monaco who also serves as chairman of the Rush Soccer Organization.
Still, New York’s players are refusing to let the move distract them from what is most important right now: winning.
“It can’t be [a distraction],” said Cahill. “We get paid to play football and that’s the one thing I’m drumming into my players, is to focus on the game and nothing off it, because we can’t let it be an excuse.
“Probably people want it to maybe sidetrack us, but we’ve got some strong-minded players that only care about football and the basis of this football club,” added the Australian international. “We’ve got to play football and the only way things can be better is by winning games.”
Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry, who like Cahill is a seasoned veteran of the game, agreed. But he also iterated that the timing of the move was not something that he was fond of.
“That’s not the type of thing you want to have at the end of the season, but I’ve been involved with so many things and so many teams that it does happen,” said Henry. “All we can do is focus on what we have in front of us. Obviously, [I] say thank you to Erik Solér for what he has done, but that’s the way the game is.”
The constant flux within the Red Bulls club and organization is something that has grown frustrating for fans of the team, but Henry emphasized it is just a part of playing professional soccer.
“I’ve been involved in the game for a long time,” said Henry. “I’ve been here talking about Dwayne De Rosario and Dane Richards and now Erik, and the list is so long.
“I’ve been here for two-years-and-a-half [years], and who is still here since I arrived? I think no one, nearly,” continued Henry as he surveyed the busy practice field behind him. “Unfortunately that’s how the game is, but we have one goal.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.