Despite a league-record 14th straight Audi MLS Cup Playoffs trip, the 2023 season was considered sub-standard for the New York Red Bulls.
That sentiment's readily apparent as RBNY begin their offseason with a series of club-altering moves, starting with the departure of sporting director Denis Hamlett, who had been with the club for nearly a decade. They also opted not to renew the contract of head coach Troy Lesesne, who took over after Gerhard Struber's exit in early May.
"We have made it now 14 times in a row to the playoffs. But, please let me say this clearly: This is not good enough. We need to [take] the next step," head of sport Jochen Schneider said at Wednesday's year-end press conference. "And that's why we took these key decisions. That's why we agreed with Red Bull Soccer to invest in our team. And we want to reach the next level with our club.
"With that said, we are resetting on the sporting side and we felt it was the right decision to do so. We are now starting the process to hire a new head coach and a sporting director and hopefully we will bring both jobs over the line [by] Christmas. Looking then to the 2024 season, we all agree that we have to improve our product on the pitch. We need to get better."
Schneider even noted that fan displeasure was recognized by the front office, with a promise to improve.
"I remember our great fans in the South Ward one day holding up a banner saying 'just not good enough.' Sometimes fans have the best feeling for the situation," Schneider said.
"Looking back, the moment you see that, you think 'I don’t really like that.' But I'm looking back now to say they were completely right. We need to get better. We need to raise our standards. We need to ask for more."
Lesesne led RBNY back above the playoff line in 2023, clinching the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed via a last-gasp penalty kick on Decision Day at Nashville SC.
"It's not about what they have not showed," Schneider said of the prior staff. "I said this before: They delivered. They took over in very difficult times. They brought the team together. They delivered results and in the last minute we made it into the playoffs.
"And then, unfortunately, we got knocked out again in the first playoff round. … What are we going to do to [take] the next step, to reach the next level for this club? We decided to do this reset, to start to write a new chapter and to bring in new people with new ideas, new energy, different thoughts. That's the reasons why we made this decision."
All along, RBNY plan to maintain their distinctive, high-energy, chaos-creating style. But adding high-level players to the mix is crucial, with RB Leipzig midfielder Emil Forsberg reportedly joining Luquinhas and Dante Vanzeir as Designated Players this winter.
"When you look at the data, our style of play is working in this league," Schneider said. "Even when you look at this season, I'm not the biggest fan of expected goals, I prefer actual goals. But in terms of expected goals, we are quite good in this league. So it's about we need to finish, we need to execute and we need to kill the games. And we haven't done that.
"Having said that, that also means that we can develop our own game. When you look at another Red Bull club like Leipzig, the way this club has developed its game, in adding better players, bringing in new coaches with their style, but always sticking to the Red Bull rules. This is the right way."
This winter, Schneider indicated there will be roster movement as RBNY look to go from the Eastern Conference mix to frontrunner status.
"We need to ask for more. And that's what I expect from our players," the German executive said.
" ... It's our job to increase the quality of the roster and looking forward into the 2024 season. We are proud of our way, how we play this game. And we have Red Bull on the shirt, and it should always look like Red Bull. It should never be boring. It should never be sitting back and waiting, we always want to be on the front foot, being aggressive on the pitch."