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Is Eric Wynalda the right guy for New York Red Bulls?

Jan 3, 2013, 10:12 AM EDT

Eric Wynalda AP

Someday, someone in Major League Soccer will hand Eric Wynalda the managerial car keys. At that point, he will either proceed to drive the club right down Glory Road – or he’ll batter the bus en route to driving it over the doggone cliff.

Hard to say which, although it could surely go either way. Wynalda is something of a mad scientist in the game, capable of grand things but also capable of wrecking ball destruction. His soccer brain is sharp and streetwise. His eye for talent approaches profound, as evidenced by his ability to gather up a bunch of cast-offs and show higher tier teams what’s what. We saw as much in last summer’s U.S. Open competition.

But the former U.S. international striker comes with no filter; witness his notorious propensity to lash out at the U.S. Soccer establishment. Whatever his faults, you have to say that self-awareness isn’t one of them. What Wynalda told the L.A. Times last summer: “Everybody thinks that I’m just a TV guy with a big mouth that’s very critical of things. And I get it. They’re right.”

On the other hand, the guy knows the game. And in speaking of the very high-profile managerial opening now in MLS, in New York, there’s a case to be made the Wynalda fits the Harrison bill.

It will probably take a big personality to drag the New York Red Bulls into a better place, trophy-gathering wise. And it would take a man with steel-girded opinions to stand up to the new regime, now the province of Scottish sporting director Andy Roxburgh and the organization’s French head of soccer Gerard Houllier.

They have apparently not yet offered the managerial position to Scotsman Gary McAllister, although the Red Bulls and interested journalists kept our guy Richard Farley busy yesterday trying to unwind it all.

So while the Red Bulls deciders make their choice here (uh, tick … tock, guys; MLS camps open in a couple of weeks, and the draft is just 14 days away), perhaps they can lay this on the table as supporting evidence:

This piece from Once A Metro makes a cogent case for Wynalda as the best choice here.

It will be a bold stroke when someone does trust Wynalda to be a club’s flag carrier. But in all honesty, if they are concerned about wins and losses – and the Red Bulls organization really should be concerned with little else at this point – they could do a lot worse.

Personally, I would have more faith in Wynalda, someone who has played in MLS, someone who knows everyone important enough to know in American soccer and someone who does have bright ideas about the game, over a Scotsman with zero knowledge of MLS, and only slightly more than “zero” in terms of managerial success.

  1. Dan Haug - Jan 3, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    As a Galaxy fan, I think the red Bulls hiring Wynalda would be great for my team. He fits right into the Red Bulls MO: They are an unstable organization with little patience that values raw talent over teamwork. They are incredibly reactive and impulsive in the way they manage their squad.

    As you mention in your post, Waldo could come in and take them to a championship, but I pretty much guarentee you he would be gone in less than three seasons (he might make it through two, but even that is pushing it).

    Most reasonable prediction: He would be like Novak in Philly, or Preki in Toronto.

  2. wesbadia - Jan 3, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    I’ve always had a love-hate perception of Wynalda. No one will disagree that the guy comes off as abrasive and brash and crude. And, despite his World Cup experience and successes, I’ve always questioned his actual playing quality compared to others of the same era. But no one can deny that he knows the game; that he isn’t a prominent and, arguably, important figure on the American landscape.

    If I were NYRB (and I’m, of course, not…), and I knew that within the next four years a crosstown rival would be vying for not only the same market as my club but also clamoring to claim hardware before me, I think I’d do everything in my power to create an identity for myself so that the fan base that currently exists has little reason to leave once NY2 gets here. All the more if NY2 carries the Cosmos moniker.

    So, how ’bout this: NYRB becomes the club from the “wrong side of the tracks”? They’re already from NJ, a cesspool according to everybody in the region. They have polarizing players already (or at least did), and it’d take little effort to continue it. Wynalda would be a personality to galvanize this image of NYRB as the Man U of Manchester rather than the Man City (NY2)… just without the trophies and fame. Create the bad boy appeal. Hire personnel that everyone loves to hate… yet loves regardless. Create a home for the loveable antagonists that just like to get under peoples’ skins. Embrace the identity and allow the fan base to emulate it in the stands.

    If there’s ANY path towards success in Harrison, NJ, this is surely one of them.

  3. geojock - Jan 3, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    I like Wynalda but dont think he is ready to take the keys of an MLS franchise, especially not NYRB. He needs to spend, at least some time as an MLS assistant somewhere for a year or so.

  4. mlsadvocate - Jan 3, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    If you need to ask the question, “Is Wynalda ready for the MLS” then you don’t know him. When his time comes, and he’s given the “Keys”, all the soccer pundits will be saying, why didn’t he become a manager sooner…. He’s one of the few player coaches who can bring out the best in his players and those who really know him will attest to this fact.

    It will be interesting to see which owner is ready to take their team to the next level.

  5. danielofthedale - Jan 3, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Wynalda would be a hire for the Red Bulls in my opinion. I am an Atlanta Silverbacks fan and saw what he can do up close and personal. The Silverbacks where probably the worst team in the NASL for the first year and half of their existence. Wynalda took over as interim manager and then had a major role in picking the new players and new manager and he helped turn the Silverbacks into the third best team in the league after he got there.

    However I fully expect New York to pass him up, since the Red Bulls are all about making the wrong choice. That is great for me though, because I fully expect Atlanta to get 22nd MLS team to pair up with Orlando in the next few years and he would be the perfect fit to the be manager of the team down here.

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