The 2016 MLS season has had many ups and downs for the New York Red Bulls. One of the downs that doesn’t appear to be getting back on the rise moving ahead is forward Omer Damari.
Wasted Potential: Omer Damari And The New York Red Bulls
Damari was brought in on loan from fellow Red Bull-owned Bundesliga side RB Leipzig in August of this year. The Israeli international occupies one of New York’s three designated player slots and was expected to contribute in a variety of ways.
The 27-year old striker had found playing time hard to come by in Germany and the deal seemed like an excellent way to benefit all involved. Damari’s scoring skills were evident, as he tallied over 100 goals during his eight seasons playing in Israel.
The move to New York began well enough, with Damari finding a late goal at Alianza FC in El Salvador to earn a crucial point in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage. But fitness, injuries and the stellar play of starting forward Bradley Wright-Phillips have all combined for a perfect storm of ineffectiveness and a lack of contribution from the summer signing.
Damari made only four league appearances in the 2016 season and received a red card for a slide tackle in the closing stages of New York’s 1-0 loss at the Montreal Impact last Sunday. Now suspended for the second leg of the Eastern Conference semi-final series this coming weekend, there is a chance that Damari has played his last match with the Red Bulls.
The challenge in question may not have been made with the most malicious intent. But at that point in the match and in that position on the field, the move was certainly reckless and avoidable. Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch was left with a difficult last few minutes as his team could not find an important road goal ahead of this weekend’s home leg.
The injury bug had been a concern for Omer Damari over the past few years, especially since he signed on with RB Leipzig in 2015. Out on loan to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria during the 2015-16 season, Damari only made 16 appearances as he struggled to get to full fitness.
The New York Red Bulls knew that they were taking on a bit of risk bringing him in, but the possible upside he provided and quality of play was undeniable.
In need of another striker before their playoff push, the Red Bulls took a calculated risk that ultimately did not come to fruition.
Omer Damari now looks ahead to an uncertain future in his career. He is under contract with RB Leipzig until 2018, but his current loan spell in New York will do little to change his current club situation.
Damari wants to keep earning caps with the Israeli national team and continue his overall progression, but in order to do so he will need to keep his health consistent and gain important match minutes. When he returns to Germany and his team that currently sit second behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga standings, his place will undoubtedly be with the Leipzig reserve squad.
Optimistic hope remains that the Red Bulls’ season continues past Sunday and that Omer Damari may yet still be able to contribute to a MLS Cup championship run.
However, his ill-fated summer loan to the United States is chalked up to wasted potential and the wonderment of what could have been.