Ali Curtis says leaving New York Red Bulls 'made the most sense'
Negotiations between Ali Curtis and the New York Red Bulls had been going on for weeks, yet when it was announced on Thursday that Curtis would be leaving his post as sporting director, it didn't make the news any easier to take.
In an exclusive interview with ESPN FC, Curtis said, "It's still kind of raw. I have some mixed feelings for sure. But I honestly am focused and excited about the next chapter. I'm trying to process it, but I want to move forward. My direction is north."
Curtis' ouster had been rumored for some time. In January, he left the MLS player combine early to fly back to New York as reports swirled that manager Jesse Marsch was set to move to sister club Red Bull Salzburg, while Denis Hamlett would move into a technical director role. Marsch ended up staying put, but the rumors of Curtis' possible departure continued.
When the club announced any player acquisitions, Curtis' name was nowhere to be seen, with Marsch providing the necessary quote about the deal in question.
Several sources told ESPN FC that they were instructed to direct any inquiries about players to someone other than Curtis, confirming a Metro report that Curtis was no longer acting as sporting director. The move was made official on Thursday, with the club stating that unspecified "different views" were the reason for Curtis' departure.
"We did spend the last three or four weeks trying to sort out these differences," Curtis said. "We felt that [my leaving] was what made the most sense. I think that they're going to move forward, they're going to have fill my role, and they'll be getting ready for the CONCACAF Champions League game next week, which is awesome, and I'm going to move forward and figure out my next step."
When asked if he held out hope as recently as this week that he would still be able to stay on, Curtis said, "The deal is never done until it's done. I think we both spent the last three, four weeks diligently trying to figure out what would be the best path. At the end of the day, this is it."
Left unanswered is why the relationship deteriorated so quickly. Back in 2014, it was Curtis who took the public relations hit when he decided to fire then-manager Mike Petke and bring in Marsch. It was Curtis and Marsch who then faced the wrath of fans at a now infamous town hall meeting in which Curtis' judgment was called into question. Since that night, Curtis constructed a side that won one Supporters' Shield and another regular-season Eastern Conference title. Now, he's out.
Curtis did not shed much light on why he and the Red Bulls parted ways.
"We just had some different views and it was best for us to part ways, for me to go my way and Red Bull to move on," he said.
Multiple sources told ESPN FC that a rift had developed between Curtis and Marsch regarding control of player matters, with the disagreement over trading captain Dax McCarty to Chicago just one example. McCarty went so far as to tell reporters on a conference call that the trade was Marsch's decision. Whether such disagreements were enough on their own to result in Curtis' departure is still unknown.
When asked if his relationship with Marsch was the source of the differences, or if it was more with the Red Bull hierarchy located in Austria, Curtis said, "I can't get into the specifics of the different views, what they were and with whom I had them. But what I would say is that what I've heard and read about what was going on between me and the Red Bulls, the different views, and who those different views were with, I would say the vast majority of those are false."
Curtis declined to elaborate on what precisely was false about the rumors and reports.
He did say that plenty of organizations in the broader U.S. soccer community had already reached out to him.
"I've got to figure that piece out," he said. "Now that things have made official with Red Bull, I'll look at a number of different options. I've got a passion for this game, a real love, so I'm excited about what's next. I've got a lot of energy, and I'll attack whatever will be in my future with a tremendous amount of energy."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.