The word "unique" has been used to the point of exhaustion in 2020, but there is nary a better adjective to describe Gerhard Struber's situation as he prepares for his MLS coaching debut.
Struber was appointed as the New York Red Bulls' next head coach on October 6, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, had to wait weeks for a work visa before he could travel to the United States and begin his government-mandated quarantine period. He was (virtually) involved with the team since he was hired, but interim head coach Bradley Carnell was the man leading the charge for matches.
Now Struber is here, quarantined and ready to work. All of this happened just in time for Struber to take the big seat on the RBNY bench for the first time in their Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs match against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday (3 pm ET | TV & streaming info).
“It’s a special situation for me and the team," Struber told media on a virtual press conference Thursday. “I’ve had good communication with Bradley and the staff, and always good exchanges with (head of sport) Kevin (Thelwell). Right now I’m here, right now I have the responsibility for results, development and decisions.”
The Red Bulls are confident in the decision to have Struber take over for the playoffs.
“From our perspective, we wish Gerhard could have come earlier but we’re delighted he’s in at any stage of the season, to be honest," Thelwell said.
Struber has led a few training sessions ahead of the match against Columbus. He said his total focus is on tactics at the moment and won't institute overwhelming change, especially since RBNY had one loss (3W-1L-3D stretch) in their final seven regular-season games. Their run of form saw them shoot up the standings and avoid a Play-In game by earning the East's No. 6 seed.
The Red Bulls will also have key midfielders Kaku and Cristian Casseres Jr. available for the match upon their return from international duty. Struber is confident in his handle of the team and the individuals.
“I know my first XI," Struber said. "I have a good impression of the team, I have a good feeling. In this game we need not only the first XI, but we need every single player in the squad.”
The Red Bulls' quest for their first-ever MLS Cup continues on Saturday.
“The vision and the dream for every club is to win MLS Cup," Thelwell said. "Without question, we secured a head coach with the capability and expertise to help achieve that dream and secure results.”