The New York Red Bulls announced former Wolverhampton Wanderers Sporting Director Kevin Thelwell as their new Head of Sport on Monday.
His position with New York entails oversight over the entirety of the sporting side of the club while Sporting Director Denis Hamlett will remain in charge of day-to-day operations and report to Thelwell.
Thelwell had spent 12 years working in England before joining the Major League Soccer franchise in this newly created role. He previously served as an academy manager and the Head of Football and Development at Wolves before his promotion to Sporting Director of the club in the summer of 2016.
As the Red Bulls enter what seemingly looks like the start of a franchise rebuild, Thelwell’s expertise in recruiting and player development and Premier League experience will be a welcomed addition to smoothen out the franchise’s transition.
In his tenure at Wolves, Thelwell brought in star-studded players such as Raul Jimenez and Joao Moutinho while recruiting prospective talents in Adama Traore and Pedro Neto. Their academy and reserves benefited from him bringing in Leonardo Campana, Enzo Loiodice and Luke Matheson this past January.
He brings a skillset that fits the mold of New York’s philosophy on recruiting and developing players from their academy and from the MLS SuperDraft. The Red Bull Academy has produced United States Men’s National Team players in Matt Miazga and Tyler Adams while the likes of Ben Mines and John Tolkin are still playing with the franchise’s United Soccer League affiliate.
Thelwell’s background in recruiting players is where the club will hope to make the most of him. While the franchise has done well to produce talent internally, they have failed to bring in any high-profile signings to match the progression Atlanta United, Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles FC. Foreign players in general have lost their attraction to the New York area as well, opting instead to settle down in Los Angeles.
Alejandro Romero Gamarra, more commonly known as “Kaku,” currently holds one of three Designated Player slots for the Red Bulls and has been a relatively successful investment by the club in the two years he has been with them. His 11 goals and 14 assists in 56 league appearances did not light the league up within that time, but he provided the team with a creative spark they missed desperately following the departure of Sacha Kljestan in 2018.
Josh Sims, an English winger recently loaned in from Premier League side Southampton, holds the second of their three DP slots. However, the decision to allot him a DP contract seemed premature and unwarranted given that he is yet to play over 600 minutes in a single season at 22-years-old and only played seven games for New York last season. Sims’ contract also seems like a waste of a Designated Player slot given the club’s depth in his position, and the general lack of ambition the club has shown in recently with their stingy spending.
The arrival of Thelwell brings a lot of optimism for what is to come for the club, but he will not have the same effect on New York as he did on Wolves without proper funding. With the MLS primary transfer window due to open on Friday, Thelwell will be thrown to the wolves in helping the franchise continue their recruitment of players for the new season.
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.