When last we left you, we had reviewed the first few years of Major League Soccer drafting history for the then Metrostars, now the New York Red Bulls.
Red Bulls Drafting History Part II: Misfiring In The New Century
Tim Hall’s View From 101
It was hit-and-miss at best, and miss-and-miss at worst. But it was a new thing and a new league, so it is possible that the front office types needed a few years to get their legs underneath them, and once they had some reps, they would be firing on all cylinders. Well, no, not so much. As you’ll see as we move into the more modern era and the Red Bull buyout, bad experience tends to lead to bad experiences.
2004: Seth Stammler drafted at #18
Stammler was a nice enough guy and a pug-nosed player, and that’s all well and good. But if we’re thinking of who the team could have picked instead, the glaring choice is actually a player they would take eighteen picks later: Michael Bradley.
Sure, at the time, he was just the coach’s son. Since then all he’s done is captain the US Men’s National Team, play in Europe and win MLS Cup with Toronto. If you’re gonna have nepotism, as was claimed at the time anyway, you might as well go all in.
One season, thirteen games, no goals at left back, and Ward was sent off to Columbus. This particular draft class isn’t so notable for who came after the Metrostars to swoop up an all-world player, but instead for the players that every team swung and missed on.
Undrafted in 2005 were Chris Wondolowski – who has gone on to play for the US in the World Cup and will break the MLS scoring record this season if not next – and Jeff Larentowicz – who has played in over 350 MLS matches and is still going strong. Ward, on the other hand, would appear in 71 matches in eight years for five clubs until 2012 when he bowed out of MLS and apparently professional soccer as a whole.
In their last draft, the Metrostars moved up to grab Wynne thinking they would have a speedy wing defender locked down for the next few years. Instead, Wynne was traded to Toronto early the following year.
Further down the board is a veritable who’s who of former Red Bull players and US Men’s National Team stars, and sometimes both at once. #2 that year was the Moroccan Medhi Ballouchy who would have some memorable moments in red. Numbers 5 and 6 that year were Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty respectively, who would eventually become teammates for the Red Bulls, with Kljestan succeeding McCarty as captain of the team.
Jozy Altidore was taken at 17 by the Metros, Dominic Oduro went to Dallas at 21 but would end up here eventually. Other members of a stacked class include Yura Movsisyan, Kei Kamara and Johnathan Bornstein.
The Jamaican would also go on to wear #19 in his first of two stints with the Red Bulls. Dane will forever be remembered for his incredible speed, a mindblowing game against Houston to lead New York to their only MLS Cup final to date, and for casually sliding in to the DM’s of female RBNY fans from time to time.
This pick isn’t terrible given what Dane meant to the team, although all the way down at #50, two picks before they closed the draft, went current Red Bulls captain Luis Robles, another one that the team sorta got right in the end.
2008: The 16th pick, Eric Brunner
This pick was compensation from Toronto for the Marvell Wynne trade a year earlier. Wynne has gone on to have a good career around the league, won MLS Cup, but nothing overly sensational.
Eric Brunner, not as much. Brunner was drafted by Metro, who not long after signed New Zealander Andy Boyens to the same centerback spot.
The Red Bulls tried to shift Brunner to a developmental spot, but Brunner refused the cut in pay and left the team without playing a single minute. Brunner bounced around MLS until 2014 when he retired, and, according to his Wikipedia page, now spends his days playing video games under the handle “Broomsweeper”. For all that headache, the Red Bulls could have got the services of versatile USMNT and Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron.
2009: Jeremy Hall, #11
Like the Wynne pick, the Red Bulls went for speed on defense. Like the Wynne pick, Jeremy Hall was here for a little over a season and traded.
A notable later pick for RBNY was Babajide Ogunbiye at eighteen. Jide refused to sign a developmental deal with the Red Bulls (which, given the team’s success rate, one can hardly blame him) and ended up going to Denmark.
Ogunbiye would finally agree to terms with the Metros before the 2012 season, but failed to pass his physical, and was released. Future Red Bulls by Other Means Brandon Barklage and Mike Grella went later in this draft, as did US midfielder Graham Zusi.
2010: Number 2 overall, Tony Tchani
Continuing a theme, Tchani spent two years here and was dealt away, eventually finding a decent career in Columbus. And, to continue another theme, when drafting this high the Metros missed a lot of talent they could have taken instead. Ike Opara went next and is a stalwart for Kansas City.
Same can be said for Teal Bunbury in New England at the four spot. At 18 the Red Bulls took Tim Ream who was so good he’s now at Fulham, so sometimes you can’t even win for trying.
2011: With the lucky 13th pick, Corey Hertzog
Hertzog would get five appearances with the Red Bulls before being loaned out to Wilmington Hammerheads, where he would promptly become one of the league’s top scorers and get Wilmington to the USL final. Seeing how well their young prospect was doing given a chance to play regularly, Hertzog was cut before the 2013 season.
This is also the draft class where the Red Bulls took Wayne Rooney’s brother John, who did about as well for the Metros as Hertzog. This was part of the Red Bulls plan to sign the brothers of famous players, which has only worked once with Shawn Wright-Phillips’ brother Bradley, who is now the Red Bulls’ all-time leading scorer. The team then tried to screw that up by signing Shawn anyway.
It goes on like this, with a slew of busts that the Red Bulls took, and what-might-have-beens that they could have. Nowadays, the team is focused on building the roster organically through the academy, which during the 2018 season accounts for three or four starters per week on a regular basis.
That is important, not only as a sign of improvement to the player pipelines across North America, but also because, as we’ve shown, this franchise is god awful at selecting players from elsewhere.