Five-time MLS champion relishes opportunity to have impact at all levels of the organization.
He's been in the league since it began, knows the joy of winning titles and pain of losing finals, and like many, has found a second career beyond that of a professional player.
He's also thankful that a maturing, growing league has taken on more of a professional model, with youth teams and a reserve team feeding into the first team, and former players overseeing duties other than moving cones on the practice field.
Meet Jeff Agoos, five-time MLS Cup winner, ex-U.S. international defender and Red Bull New York executive. Yet whereas many of his former teammates and foes are directors of soccer or technical directors, Agoos, as sporting director, has left them behind. Well, in title, anyway.
"I'm in the crosshairs, now," he says, somewhat in jest, having taken on the title of sporting director after a year as technical director. "Well, not really, but what I am responsible for is making sure the ideas and values this organization stands for are in place from our academy all the way up to the first team.
"That means everything to do with player development and selection, from working with [Director of Youth Development] Bob Montgomery, with our youth teams, to working with the coaching staff about getting what we need to win in MLS."
Cynical fans might wonder if success and stability are among those tenets. Another tumultuous season, punctuated by the dismissal of former head coach Bruce Arena, a tepid season for Claudio Reyna, and a rather abrupt departure by goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus took some of the shine off a 19-goal contribution from Juan Pablo Angel and a promising rookie campaign by midfielder Dane Richards.
If nothing else, Red Bull successfully wrested head coach Juan Carlos Osorio out of Chicago once he'd made known his desire to change clubs.
"He's a very meticulous, very driven, very hard-working individual," says Agoos. "He pays a great deal of attention to detail and takes a lot of pride in the teams that he coaches."
Agoos will oversee the Red Bulls' youth teams, which include five full squads - totaling 90 to 100 players - in the critical 16- and 17-year-old age group. He'll work with the first-team coaching staff, yet there are a dozen employees in the academy and youth development department to be monitored. "Our bar, or our measure, is not how many championships our youth teams win but how many players we graduate to our first team," says Agoos.
One such young star, of course, is Jozy Altidore. Another teenager, Matt Kassel, has progressed quickly enough to trigger a firestorm of confusion regarding whether accompanying the team to Florida for preseason training would void his academic eligibility.
The team's training facility is scheduled to open this year and construction of Red Bull Park is on track toward a 2010 unveiling. Managing director Marc De Grandpre obviously didn't see eye-to-eye with Arena, and in the postseason purge assistant coach John Harkes also departed, but Agoos has the blessing of De Grandpre, and by association, Red Bull founder and owner Dieter Mateschitz.
"Red Bull is an ambitious organization, with obviously a lot of resources, and wants to move in the right direction," says Agoos, who ended his career with a tumultuous season as a MetroStar. "That's something this team really hasn't had in 13 years. We're getting a training center and a stadium. Dieter Mateschitz is personally committed to this team and you couldn't ask for more from an ownership group.
"I won five championships as a player, and every one of them was special, because they were all different. But as a player, you're really only responsible for yourself and how you perform. In this job, there's a lot more to take care of, a lot more to worry about, and believe me, if we win a championship, I'll celebrate just as much as I did as a player."
(This article originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of Soccer America magazine.)