HARRISON, N.J. -- If there is a difference between Jerome de Bontin and his predecessor Erik Soler, it's that the New York Red Bulls' new general manager promises to be more transparent.
The former AS Monaco man stressed the importance of the Red Bulls organization being more forthright with the media. De Bontin came across as affable and honest in his first meeting with reporters. However, in a Soler-esque moment, De Bontin gave current head coach Hans Backe's future with the club a half-hearted endorsement.
"Unequivocally, today, we are behind Hans. We are with him till the end of the season," De Bontin said. "As for the next season? We don't know that."
De Bontin admitted that the Red Bulls changes to the front office aren't done yet, as the club plans on hiring a sporting director who will determine matters on the field, including Backe's future.
"In the near future, Gerard [Houllier] will appoint a sporting director to be in charge of New York. That person will evaluate what direction to go next year," De Bontin said.
He continued to explain, "The world of soccer is one that goes season by season. Every great club and every great coach wait till the end of the season to evaluate if the objectives were met."
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With the club hiring a new sporting director in the near future, De Bontin's role is primarily to focus on the business side of the Red Bulls. He stated that the team's owners in Austria were disappointed by the team's poor attendance figures and turning that around is a priority for the club. However, De Bontin also acknowledged that team's current focus is to change the team's disappointing fortunes in the postseason.
"Our shareholder is really committed to this sport and really committed to this team," said De Bontin. "The objective that has been made clear to me is turning this team in the best organization in North America."
Providing his assessment of the current Red Bulls roster, De Bontin believes that the Red Bulls have had a good regular season and expects the team to contend for the MLS Cup this year.
"I have an assessment of [the team] and I think it's fantastic. We have 53 points today and [possibly] 56 points by tonight. We will have broken our record for points," De Bontin said. "We have a team that within the limitations of MLS, the salary cap, has done quite well. We have the roster, with the commitment and charisma of the players, to go all the way."
Though De Bontin won't be as involved with player and coaching staff , he hopes his extensive knowledge of United States soccer will be useful for New York. De Bontin served as a member of the Investment Committee of the U.S. Soccer Foundation and also served on the U.S. Soccer Federation task force on player development.
"I think I understand the soccer scene in the U.S. better than most. Now, that I am in a position of leadership in the MLS, I can help the league improve and grow the game," De Bontin said.
De Bontin also explained what Soler's new role as adviser will, claiming that the former GM was "gracious" in wanting to stay with the organization and help the club in moving forward. However, in explaining his own views of the current American soccer scene, there are some obvious ideological differences between the two men.
For example, De Bontin hopes that the Red Bulls will take more advantage of the college draft system than under the previous front office.
"While we are in America, we have a DNA that most Europeans don't understand," he stated. "There is a unique value in players playing in college. In the end, they might mature at slower pace than their European counterparts, but there are plenty of good players from the college system.
"Therefore, I think the draft should be a better focus."
Plenty of promises made, the next few years should determine whether the Red Bulls front office can deliver on becoming the top organization on the continent.
- New York Red Bulls