On Tuesday, the New York Red Bulls made its first two huge announcements of the 2023/24 off-season. Firstly, sporting director Denis Hamlett “mutually parted ways” after eight seasons with the team. A few minutes prior, RBNY announced it had not renewed the contract of head coach Troy Lesesne. With these two decisions, head of sport Jochen Schneider has made it clear the team is heading in a completely new direction.

Lesesne Hamlett
Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ (Credit: New York Red Bulls)

Hamlett Gone After Eight Seasons

Hamlett’s departure from Harrison was not shocking. In fact most fans on social media celebrated the news.

Joining New York in 2015, Hamlett initially worked as an assistant coach under Jesse Marsch. The same role he had when Marsch was the head coach of the then-named Montreal Impact. He only stayed on the sideline for two seasons before becoming Sporting Director in 2017.

“My family and I would like to thank the Red Bulls organization and the fans for the nine years I have been with the club,” said Hamlett in a statement. “I am proud of the fact that the team made the playoffs every year during my tenure. I wish the organization, the fans, and the players all the best going forward.”

As SD, Hamlett was extensively involved with the Red Bulls’ roster. At the academy and scouting level, he was key in bringing in players like Cristian Casseres Jr. and Kaku Gamarra. However the team’s declining firepower has been ever present in recent seasons. Barely making the playoffs in 2023, the writing was on the wall.

While he’d overseen the team reach a handful of finals and been apart of two Supporters’ Shields, Hamlett was not doing anything to right the sinking ship. At times, his role in Harrison was described as “translating Major League Soccer to Austria and Jochen”. No person is going to keep a front office job doing that.

 

Lesesne Not Given Full Season At Helm

Lesesne leaves the team after taking over the head coach role midseason. Following the dismissal (mutual parting) of Gerhard Struber, Lesesne took the reins in early May 2023. It was his first MLS head coaching job, though not his first at the position. Lesesne had previously coached USL Championship side New Mexico United before joining RBNY as an assistant in 2022.

It’s hard to emphasize the effect Troy had on the locker room atmosphere. Under Struber, especially as things got worse in 2023, New York was not a fun team to cover. One win in 11 games will damper any team’s morale. But players did not look encouraged on the field. The systems being implemented weren’t working and were putting players in roles they weren’t meant to be in. Struber’s response to criticism was to deflect and blame others, especially referees.

Under Troy, results slightly improved on the field. But overall he righted a downright cancerous locker room. Players like John Tolkin looked more free flowing on the field. Even in loses players seemed optimistic. Though that isn’t enough to hold a job, Lesesne’s work as a caretaker was impactful. Without him this team does not make the playoffs for a 14th straight season. But even he admitted that wasn’t good enough.

Lesesne leaves with a record of 15 wins, 13 loses, and four ties. Assistant coach Zach Prince also leaves with him. New York’s next head coach will be its 20th in 29 seasons as a Major League Soccer franchise.

Jochen’s Team

Ultimately, these moves signal Jochen Schneider’s bigger plans for the New York Red Bulls. Multiple times this season he and others in the organization have promised big changes. That includes, allegedly,  big spending on roster improvements.

A new head coach and sporting director are sure fire ways to signal a “cleaning house” mentality. It’s obvious players like John Tolkin won’t be back in Harrison next year. Plenty of other contracts, like Dru Yearwood and Tom Barlow, are poised to not be picked up for 2024.

While it was clear Lesesne was “the guy” before, under Jochen that isn’t the case. The question now becomes what RBNY will be under the Red Bull man? Will a new European coach bridge the gap to Austria even more? Or will an MLS man make it so the team competes at the peak of the league’s potential? Time will tell. 

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