The New York Red Bulls’ distinctive style has made them one of the most recognizable teams in MLS for the last year and a half. But it can also be tough for even the most pedigreed arrivals to pick up on the team’s high-pressing system, as the case of Designated Player Gonzalo Veron has demonstrated.
The Red Bulls brass hope that won’t be the case with their two latest pickups, forward Omer Damari and winger Daniel Royer. The team has 10 regular-season games remaining, and with star forward Bradley Wright-Phillips picking up a fresh injury, the Red Bulls will need all the attacking help they can get, as soon as they can get it.
Luckily for them, they’ve found two players who are already intimately familiar with the Red Bull style of soccer.
Damari (pictured above), who Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch described as a second striker that can also play alone up top, comes to New York from the MLS team’s sister club, Red Bull Salzburg. With the Red Bull teams in New York, Salzburg and Leipzig preaching a similar playing philosophy, RBNY sporting director Ali Curtis hopes the Israeli international will have a leg up in getting used to life on the other side of the Atlantic.
“He comes from a club that plays very similar to the way we play,” Curtis told reporters at the two players’ introductory press conference on Tuesday. “So we think, tactically, we felt for a guy that you bring in on loan, there's a lot of value there, because you're not having to go through the traditional process of education of how you play with Omer, relative to a player outside of the family.”
Marsch also feels that Damari will be able to link up well with Wright-Phillips, once the 2014 Golden Boot winner returns to the field.
“We think the possibility of the relationship between him and Bradley can be really good,” Marsch said. “He's a really smart soccer player, he's very intelligent and smooth with how he moves around. He sees the game really quickly, he's able to set up plays really well, and he's good around the goal.”
It was the Red Bull connection that provided the first opportunity for Curtis and Marsch to see Damari in action. The duo said they first observed him in January 2015 – just after they had taken charge at the MLS side and Damari had signed with RB Leipzig.
Damari’s spells with Leipzig, and with Red Bull Salzburg starting in summer 2015, provided ample opportunities for Curtis and Marsch to scout him both up close and from afar, while the player’s continued presence in the Red Bull family gave them a chance, according to Marsch, “to determine that he would be a good fit from an off-field perspective.”
Damari said his time with the two Red Bull teams would help his transition to the New York outfit.
“I think when you play in Red Bull, you have to learn the system and how to play,” he explained. “You have to press all the time, and always press high. Like I said, when you play with Red Bull you have to know the system, and you learn every day what to do, and to show it in the game.”
In Royer’s case, the Austrian international does not have prior experience playing with any of the Red Bull teams – but he’s seen plenty of them, having played in Austria and Germany for nearly his entire career, prior to his most recent stop in Denmark.
“I know the Red Bull system because I played a lot of games against Red Bull Salzburg when I played in Austria,” Royer told reporters. “Like Omer and Jesse said, the whole Red Bull family in Salzburg, Leipzig and New York, I think they try to follow the same philosophy and the same style of soccer.”
Curtis said Royer was also a player that he and Marsch had been scouting since before the transfer window, and that the new addition was one who they felt would be a fit for their system, both on and off the field.
“Danny is very mobile, is very aggressive, is good on the move, likes to combine, likes to run,'' Curtis said. "He's another smart soccer player – good passer, good around the goal – so, when you start to add up all of those qualities you can start to see how, from a wide perspective, that can fit into the way we play.”
As for the timeline for integrating the two players into the team, Marsch noted that the Red Bulls’ schedule congestion – they have three games across all competitions in the next nine days – means fans could see the duo sooner rather than later.
In the long-term, Royer is signed on a permanent transfer, but Damari is only on loan from Leipzig through the end of the year. Curtis confirmed to Metro New York that the Red Bulls did not have an option to make the move permanent, but both Damari and Curtis kept the door open for the possibility of extending the player’s stay in the States.
“I will try to do the best in these four months and show my quality, and then we will see what happens,” Damari said. “I should go back to Leipzig after four months, but I will want to stay here and, we will see.”