The Red Bulls announced via the team's official website on Tuesday that they have loaned Hertzog to USL Pro side Wilmington Hammerheads. The loan, according to the RBNY website story, will last one month. Wilmington are currently seventh in the USL Pro standings, having earned nine points in eight league matches.
The loan is somewhat of a surprise considering it comes on the same day that New York will play Charleston Battery in a third round US Open Cup match. With Thierry Henry sidelined due to his not being 100 percent, it was believed that Hertzog may see some playing time in that match, either as a second half scoring option, or as a substitute for front man Kenny Cooper. Tuesday's loan would seem to confirm rumors that both Jose Angulo and Jhonny Arteaga have leaped ahead of Hertzog in head coach Hans Backe's roster.
The same "in the know" individuals who told me this past January that goalkeeper Ryan Meara was "MLS ready" when the Red Bulls selected Meara on 2012 SuperDraft day have praised Hertzog since New York acquired the Penn State forward in 2011. Hertzog was the NCAA Division I leading scorer in 2010, but he was featured in just five MLS league matches last year. He has yet to take the pitch in a league contest in 2012.
Hertzog, like the recently traded Juan Agudelo, needs playing time in non-reserves matches if he is going to improve into a player capable of routinely starting for any MLS side. Neither Hertzog nor Agudelo were going to see significant playing time while part of this current RBNY team. The previously mentioned Cooper is tied for the MLS league lead in goals with San Jose Earthquakes star Chris Wondolowski, and Cooper is joined up top in the New York lineup by captain Thierry Henry. It's also hardly a quiet rumor that the Red Bulls are hoping forward Luke Rodgers is able to join the team this summer. Rodgers was unable to acquire the necessary work visa to return to MLS this past offseason.
It shouldn't be forgotten that Hertzog is, as of the typing of this sentence, only slated to be loaned out to Wilmington for one month. A lot can change for both player and team in that month. Recent events seem to suggest, however, that the Red Bulls are currently willing and possibly even searching to part ways with certain young talent. RBNY general manger/sporting director Erik Soler has, in the past, publicly criticized collegiate soccer in this country. That, Tuesday's loan, and the fact that Hertzog was unable to break into a league match even after Henry missed a month of play due to a hamstring problem all lead me to believe that we could be seeing the beginning of the end of yet another Red Bulls era that never had a chance to begin. Just one year ago, you wouldn't have been crazy had you suggested that Hertzog and Agudelo were the future of the club.
For a New York team that's clearly only looking toward the 2012 MLS Cup as summer draws near, the future is now.