HANOVER, N.J. – Amro Tarek wasn’t short of options when the 2018 MLS season concluded.
There was interest from other MLS teams, a chance to stay with Orlando City, an offer from Mexico and options in his native Egypt.
Although there was a more lucrative offer on the table, the center back chose the New York Red Bulls, where there was no guarantee he’d start with the club returning reigning MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long and re-signing Tim Parker in his same position.
“I think I picked the right choice,” Tarek told MLSsoccer.com after training Friday. “Financially wasn't the best one. But you know, I'm the kind of player who thinks first about where I’m going to be happy, where I can improve. And that was here. I think I made the right choice. And I'm really happy here.”
While weighing the next step in his career, Tarek said Egypt national team coach, Mexican-born Javier Aguirre, recommended the Red Bulls.
“I think it's a successful club, a successful organization. So if you do your right job and you do what the coach is asking you to do, you’re going to have success,” the 27-year-old said. “You can see everyone is doing a great job, last season everyone did a great job. It’s a big club to join. That was my thinking, I want to join a big team where I can improve as a player, I can win some trophies.”
Although a starting spot wasn’t guaranteed, in conversations with Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett and coach Chris Armas, Tarek said he was ready to battle for his spot. Tarek figured he’d have to wait for an injury or the international break to get his chance, but it came even sooner than that.
He's since made 11 appearances (10 starts) with a goal and an assist.
“I told them I’m ready to compete. I’m not just coming to be the third choice,” he said. “I believed in myself, I believed I was going to have a chance to play for an injury or international duty and luckily the chance came even when the two center backs were here and we started three in the back.”
Tarek was a regular starter for Orlando a year ago, but it was a trying campaign with a midseason coaching change and a shift in philosophy that came with it.
“I don’t want to talk about Orlando because I’m not there right now,” Tarek said. “I love the team, love the club, love the fans, but I think here, the culture of the club, we have a strong culture, a strong foundation. You can see whenever we rotate players, there’s good depth, the mentality here is very good, a lot of players with big character. I think this is a big strength of this club.”
Tarek has played a big role early into his first season with the Red Bulls and that’s bound to continue, at least for the next month, with Long competing for the US men’s national team at the Concacaf Gold Cup.
Even though Aguirre suggested the move to Red Bulls, a return to the Pharaohs hasn’t materialized. He understands why he wasn’t part of the March camp, since the MLS season had just started while the European-based players were in midseason.
But there’s been no communication since and he wasn’t part of the team’s African Cup of Nations buildup or roster.
“I have no idea why,” Tarek said. “But I respect that, I turned the page and I’m fully focused now on the team, happy to be here at this moment where players are gone and happy to help the team.”
The Egypt snub isn’t adding any additional fuel in training sessions and matches.
“I’m here fully motivated. I don’t need any other things to motivate me,” Tarek said. “We are willing to win the championship so I’m fully focused. We go after any team to win. A lot of players around, it’s a high competition so I have to stay focused because if I didn't, there are a lot of good players and I’d lose my spot. I’m motivated every week, every training. I’m excited to train every training.