The seat is hot under Gerhard Struber. In fact, there really aren’t many things that could make things worse for the New York Red Bulls’ head coach. Sitting bottom of the Eastern Conference, the team is off to its worst start in over a decade. Combine that with the Dante Vanzier incident, including Struber’s own actions and his popularity is at an all-time low. A walk-out by the three RBNY supporter’s groups last game, with potentially more coming, are all calling for Struber to be off the team.
If that does happen, someone is going to have to fill in either temporarily or fully down the line. It wouldn’t be the first time, especially looking at recent history. Following Chris Armas’ removal from Harrison in 2020, then-assistant coach Bradley Carnell finished out the regular season as interim manager. He eventually left the club and became head coach of first-year side St. Louis City SC, who have been off to a historically good start this season.
But who could take the job this time? It’s obvious one of the two Red Bull assistant coaches would be named interim manager immediately following Struber leaving. However, who becomes the next full-time first-team manager is another story entirely.
There are a few options, with all having some connection to the Red Bulls organization as a whole.
The former USL player and coach joined RBNY last year as an assistant coach, his first position in Division 1 professional soccer. His career prior to 2020 mostly focused on the American Southeast, including playing with the Charleston Battery and working as an assistant coach with his alma mater (College of Charleston).
Lesene was named the inaugural head coach of USL Championship side New Mexico United in August 2018. Under his leadership, NMU’s first three seasons saw consistent growth on the field. The team made the playoffs in its first two seasons, including one in the 2020 COVID season, and reached the 2019 U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals. Arguably, Lesene’s biggest contribution to the club was his role in the creation of United’s youth academy.
— New Mexico United (@NewMexicoUTD) November 5, 2021
Like Struber, Lesesne brings former playing experience to the table. But unlike his current boss, that includes time in America (albeit not MLS). However, his previous track record in New Mexico, plus his ability to work with youth players, is a good indicator for his prospects. Considering RBNY’s current squad is the youngest in the league, with an average age of 23.8 (via transfermarkt), that isn’t a bad card to have. He’s the front-runner to be named interim head coach in the case of Struber leaving his role.
If Struber is fired, a fellow Austrian could be the one to step into the role. If selected to be either the caretaker or full-time first-team gaffer, Bernd Eibler would step into his first head coaching role of any kind.
Eibler’s only other experience in coaching professional men’s soccer was a two-year stint with Austrian top-division side SV Mattersburg. From 2019 until its bankruptcy in August 2020, he worked as the club’s video analyst and as an assistant manager. Two months later, he was hired as one of Struber’s assistant coaches. Like Lesesne, he has experience with youth soccer but in a different way. The Austrian Football Association hired the coach in 2018 to help in the development of women’s soccer around the country. This included helping develop training schools. So it’s less direct player development and more organizational.
He technically also has a cap as Red Bulls’ head coach under his belt. In 2021, Struber was suspended a match due to yellow card accumulation. Eibler and Carnell co-managed the team’s November 3 match against Atlanta United FC. That game ended 0-0.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) November 4, 2021
Overall, it isn’t even certain Eibler would stay if Struber departs the team. Despite never working on the same team prior to RBNY, Struber’s relationship with Eibler dates back multiple years. His lack of head coaching pedigree and his connection to the previous gaffer make Eibler unlikely to take over the team. Both in a full-time or interim sense.
Right off the bat, Jaissle is under contract with Red Bull Salzburg until June 2025. However, I don’t necessarily think that matters if Red Bull eventually want to move him. To be blunt, if Struber’s brand of “Red Bull” soccer isn’t working, Jaissle would keep the role “in-house” while being different enough to possibly necessitate change.
Born in Germany, Jaissle played professionally with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim between 2007 and 2014. The defender’s first season in 2007-08 culminated in Hoffenheim earning promotion to the German Bundesliga for the first time in team history. However, following promotion Jaissle’s playing time decreased in the top flight.
Like many other Red Bull head coaches, Jaissle started in the youth sector. Between 2019 and 2021, he worked alongside the Red Bull Akademie U-18 team. His work there, including an Australian U-18 title in 2020/21, eventually led him to the head coaching role with FC Liefering. Three years after Gerhard Struber had coached FC Red Bull Salzburg’s reserve team, Jaissle saw out the 2020/21 season with Liefering. The following season, he became Salzburg’s head coach in the top Austrian division. Since taking over, he’s helped the club maintain dominance in the top flight. That includes a double in 2021-22, winning both the Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup.
Really this pick isn’t likely… right now. The 35-year-old is neatly set up in Red Bulls’ home country. However, like how Struber left Liefering in 2018, Jaissle could eventually spread his wings outside of the country. If he remains on good terms with Red Bulls Global, MLS isn’t a terrible idea. It would continue the same sort of “Red Bull Football” Struber and co. have tried to implement. The difference being that he’s seen more success with it.
This is more of a fantasy pick, but we’ve seen other former players jump into head coaching roles. Plus, BWP’s recent work within the organization might lend credence to some form of head coaching role.
The Special Assistant to the Sporting Director has regularly been seen alongside New York Red Bulls II head coach Ibrahim Sekagya at games. This dates back to 2022 in the team’s final season in the USL Championship. Since the move to third division MLS Next Pro, the RBNY legend has continued to be a presence at games and practice. While there’s a large jump to be made going from kinda assistant coach of the reserves to MLS head coach, BWP is still a valuable asset. His knowledge of the game and relationship with the organization mean he has a solid link.
As time goes on, less and less of the roster can say they played with Wright-Phillips on the field. As the squad gets younger, a veteran of Major League Soccer could be the perfect leader to oversee the team. That’s exactly what RBNY is hoping happens at the reserve team. Plus his own teammate Thierry Henry made the jump… to mixed results.
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) October 3, 2022
Wright-Phillips is probably not going to be a Major League Soccer head coach soon. His front office role and Apple TV work seem to be keeping him content for the time being. However, his continued presence as an “unofficial” assistant coach with NYRB II means a bigger role with the reserve team might be in the cards at some point.