Red Bulls’ Dante Vanzeir makes ‘strong case’ to start after performance vs. Charlotte FC

Dante Vanzeir Red Bulls
Dante Vanzeir (Photo courtesy of RBNY)

HARRISON, NJ — Dante Vanzeir was brought into the New York Red Bulls’ side to score goals. That’s why, if certain incentives are hit, he could become break the club’s record for the most valuable contract handed out. 

Instead, the Belgian has hit nothing but turbulence after transferring over from Royale Union Saint-Gilloise — a side that finished third in the Belgian Pro League last season.

After scoring 43 goals across three seasons and all competitions with Union SG, the 25-year-old scored just once in his first six matches with the Red Bulls before being suspended six games by Major League Soccer for using racist language during an April 8 match against San Jose. That was his first start with his new club after coming off the bench five times.

Upon his return on May 20, he was held goalless across four more appearances — just two of them being starts with an average of 42 minutes per match.

“I think everybody on this team wants to start every single week, me as well,” Vanzeir said. “I have ambition to play every game, every minute of the game. Of course, that stays on the decision of the coach.”

Head coach Troy Lesesne decided to keep Vanzeir on the bench again to start Wednesday’s match at Red Bull Arena against Charlotte FC only to see New York fall into a 2-0 hole 20 minutes in.

“It was a little bit tactical in terms of how we wanted to start the match and the type of system we wanted to implement,” Lesesne said on his decision to start Vanzeir on the bench. “I talked to him about this decision and he was very accepting and he understood what the direction was that I wanted to go for the team.”

New York Red Bulls
amNewYork/Kyle Sweeting

In need of a spark, Lesesne turned to the Belgian to start the second half — and he did not disappoint. 

Vanzeir pulled one back for the Red Bulls to halve their deficit in the 53rd minute when he got on the end of an Elias Manoel cross to spark the comeback that resulted in a 2-2 draw.

Finally, a glimpse of what the Red Bulls were hoping to see, though the span of Vanzeir’s contentedness was rather short.

“When I get some minutes, I try to help the team,” Vanzeir said. “I’m glad that I could have my impact on the game… I’m still not satisfied. Scoring goals, it’s what the Red Bulls bought me for. I’m still trying to find my form and trying to get some more minutes in… The pressure will still be there but I need pressure to perform.”

If he finds his form of putting the ball in the back of the net, Lesesne will have no other option but to start him every time out.

Entering Wednesday night’s match, the Red Bulls ranked dead-last in MLS with 11 goals scored in 17 matches and were held to just one tally in their previous three games. 

“He made a very, very strong case for himself moving forward,” Lesesne said of Vanzeir’s prospects of starting on Saturday against Atlanta. “I hope he continues to be fit and be healthy — he was out for a long stretch of games — because when he’s in a good way, you can see the impact that he makes.”

For more on Dante Vanzeir and the Red Bulls, visit AMNY.com