Photo by New York Red Bulls U23
The New York Red Bulls have built a good reputation for identifying, developing and producing high-level talent throughout the years. Red Bulls U23 Head Coach Rob Elliott, who also currently serves as the head of scouting for the club, has been a key part of that process.
If you name a recent young star to come out of the Red Bull Academy or compete with the PDL team, chances are Elliott had a helping hand in their development. Chelsea FC’s Matt Miazga, the New England Revolution’s Juan Agudelo, Manchester United’s Matthew Olosunde and the Red Bulls’ Alex Muyl are just a few of the players Elliott has coached since joining the Red Bulls staff in 2008.
After years of leading youth teams, such as the Under-20s, Elliott has taken the reins of the PDL side. In his first season in charge, Elliott and the Red Bulls U23 topped the Mid Atlantic Division, and reached the 2015 PDL Championship final before falling in a 4-3 thriller to K-W United FC. Muyl and Mael Corboz, who now plays for USL’s Wilmington Hammerheads FC, were two of the graduates from that team, while Arun Basuljevic and Christopher Lema have returned for another season in the PDL this year.
“For us at Red Bull, it is really about creating an environment that is intense and competitive,” Elliott said. “We strive to have our training sessions be as competitive as possible. It is also a good way to start to integrate the clubs playing style and philosophy so that the players are more prepared when they have opportunities to train with the USL or MLS team.
“PDL is a great way for our club to provide quality training and games for our academy players that are in college right now and also a great way to evaluate other non-academy players on a daily basis.”
Being the coach of the Red Bulls U23 means that Elliott has the job of identifying players who have the talent and skill to make an impact with the Red Bulls II or, ultimately, with the first team in MLS. However, while most of his attention is centered around the players on his team, every game in the PDL is an opportunity for him to fulfill his other duties with the club.
“As the head of scouting, my primary role is to identify and evaluate potential players for the club both internationally and domestically,” Elliott said. “Coaching the PDL team provides a good environment for me to not only evaluate our PDL team but also all the other PDL teams that we play during the season and gives us a good starting point heading into the college season and MLS college draft on potential college players that we have an interest in.”
The Red Bulls U23 are 2-1-2 to start the 2016 regular season, and a handful of players have been identified by the PDL as Top Prospects, including Basuljevic. While making runs to the PDL Championship are fun for the team, Elliott’s main objective with Red Bulls U23 is to prepare them for the next level.
“Red Bull has put a lot of resources into developing homegrown players, and we are fortunate to have a lot of good people working in our organization that that are focused on pushing players to their maximum potential,” Elliott said.
“Our goal is to provide the players with a high-level training environment which will hopefully push players out of their comfort zones and provide some insight on what the next levels look like," Elliott said. "Along with that, many of our PDL players are provided with training opportunities with the Red Bull II USL and MLS first team. As a club we have a clear philosophy and implement similar training methods. My philosophy coaching the PDL team is to try to prepare as many of the players to be able to move on to the next level in Red Bull's pyramid.”
And at the end of the day, that is what drives Elliott, seeing former young talents, such as Miazga and Agudelo, enjoy success at the highest level.
“The most rewarding part of coaching the PDL team is the relationships that you develop with the players,” Elliott said. “A lot of the players I have known since they were 13 or 14 years old, so it is rewarding to be able to see them move on to the next phase of their careers either in soccer or outside of soccer.”