Adjusting to MLS wasn’t easy for the Argentine attacker. Veron signed with the Red Bulls from San Lorenzo in August 2015, but spent two seasons struggling to live up to his Designated Player status. He recorded just four goals and one assist in 36 league games – only eight of which were starts – in 2015 and 2016.
He’s turned things around a bit this season, particularly over the past six weeks. Veron has been an impact player for the Red Bulls this summer, delivering in two clutch moments for the club. Two weeks ago, it was his appearance as a substitute in the second half of the US Open Cup semifinal at FC Cincinnati that turned the game for his team. Down 2-0, Veron scored the first goal to ignite a 3-2 comeback win after extra time that propelled the club to just their second-ever USOC final appearance.
Then last Friday, his penalty kick midway through the second half leveled what would be a 1-1 home draw against New York City FC. It was a big moment and just the latest strong showing from the 27-year-old.
“Yes, I am really happy with the training, with the responsibilities and for all the confidence that the team has giving me. I think it is a big moment after the goal at Cincinnati and also against NYCFC,” Veron said on Thursday following training. “The truth is that I work really hard during the week to be able to help the team, and I think I've been showing it, and I am definitely happy in that sense.”
His is a frustrating case study of creativity on a team that values hard work and fitness from all of their midfield players. The Red Bulls press and counter-press has stymied many teams around the league since the organization hired head coach Jesse Marsch three years ago. Veron, a midsummer signing during the coach’s first year with the team, perhaps isn’t a classic fit for a winger or a forward in that system.
The somewhat unnatural fit has often kept Veron on the bench behind Daniel Royer, Mike Grella and Alex Muyl. But with Royer out the past month with a knee ailment and Grella done for the season with an injury, Veron has stepped up and taken advantage of the open minutes, even if it’s primarily been off the bench.
“First of all we’ve kept him healthy, so that’s been a major key. Second of all I think the way we’ve rotated how we use this formation benefits him a lot. When he comes on the field, he’s been ready to go,” Marsch said.
“Gonzalo and I have had a good relationship the whole time he’s been here. I think he’s given everything to the team. Everything from learning English to showing how much he wants to be here to talking about it. We’re going to need him, we’re going to need him a lot down the stretch and he’ll be ready to go. We’ll have to call him from the start a lot the next month. And we know we can use him in different ways. Yeah, I’m pleased with Gonzalo.”
Veron is talented on the ball, with close control and deft dribbling. He also boasts plenty of speed and has a natural inclination to go towards goal and run at opposing defenders. He’s used that to good effect over the past few weeks, turning in some of the best performances of his MLS career this summer.
And as Marsch alluded to, with a crowded fixture schedule looming including the Open Cup final, Veron will have the chance to expand his role beyond being just a super sub down the stretch.
“I think we have talked a lot with Jesse and are trying to understand what he is looking for. I have changed my positions of play – I’m now playing forward and it’s a more natural position for me,” Veron said. “Other than that, just working during the week and listening to what the coach has to tell me. I think we are doing everything right. I think the change of position changed some of my personality, and I feel more confident attacking and being able to finish plays.”