Few off-seasons in Red Bulls/MetroStars history were as nerve-wracking and drama filled as the 2017-18 winter transfer period.
The team’s pursuit of Huracan midfielder Alejandro Romero Gamarra, aka “Kaku,” went from an exciting transfer report to a national waiting game as obstacle after obstacle were thrown in the way of the transfer coming to fruition.
The period earned the nickname “#KakuWatch” as conflicting reports seemed to trickle in every other day.
Given how the 2018 season ultimately played out, it’s almost laughable to look back at “#KakuWatch” and the borderline-hysteria that went into it.
Now, one year after the initial report that the Red Bulls were chasing Kaku, it’s time to take a look back.
The One-Year Anniversary Of #KakuWatch – A Timeline
We have to begin, of course, with some of the equally crazy events that led to Kaku’s transfer being a necessity for the Red Bulls. Specifically, the eventual departure of his predecessor at the attacking midfield position, Sacha Kljestan.
Here is the timeline for #KakuWatch and beyond:
July 2017 – Initial rumors emerge of LAFC interest in Sacha Kljestan
At the time, any idea that the Red Bulls would be getting rid of Kljestan seemed rather silly. He went on to lead MLS in assists for the second year in a row, and shattered Thierry Henry’s club record for assists. Why would the team get rid of him?
11/05/2017 – Sacha Kljestan ejected against Toronto
A confrontation with Jozy Altidore in the second leg of the MLS Cup Conference Semi-Finals resulted in ejections for both Altidore and Kljestan. The Red Bulls ultimately won the game 1-0, but lost on aggregate due to away goals.
Suffice it to say, Red Bulls fans were furious with Kljestan’s behavior and quickly called for his head.
11/07/2017 – Reports emerge that RBNY were “open to trading” Kljestan
As if in direct response to fan backlash at Kljestan, the Red Bulls apparently began shopping Kljestan.
12/12/2017 – Metro.us reports LAFC “close to deal” for Kljestan
At the time, a Kljestan-LAFC move seemed like a match made in heaven: Kljestan was a SoCal native who had played for Chivas USA in his prior MLS stint.
Ultimately, Kljestan would move to Orange County, but in a different state.
12/21/2017 – TyC first reports Red Bulls ready to pay club record $6.25 million for Kaku
The news immediately intrigues fans everywhere. The figure itself shattered the previous team record of $2.2 million spent on fellow-Argentine Gonzalo Veron in 2015.
All that was left was for an official announcement, which couldn’t have been more than a few days away, right? Maybe a few weeks if there were kinks to work out…
#Huracán acordó la venta de Alejandro Romero Gamarra al Red Bull, a cambio de 7 millones de dólares por el 90 por ciento del pase. Si el Kaku arregla el contrato, se irá a la MLS. Vía @TyCSports pic.twitter.com/0mQcVjshRl
— César Luis Merlo (@CLMerlo) December 22, 2017
12/23/2017 – Huracan announce that transfer has been finalized for $6.25 million
Red Bulls fans got an early Christmas present as Huracan confirmed the report with a formal announcement on their website.
12/27/2017 – Jeff Reuter reports that Orlando City SC are finalizing deal for Kljestan
While some fans were disappointed that the team would have to play against Kljestan twice a year in the Eastern Conference, many were simply relieved to have him off the roster.
All that mattered from then on was what the compensation would be.
12/30/2017 – Reports come out that agent Marcelo Simonian blocked the sale of his ex-client by demanding commission.
This was the day and the moment that would really kick the nail-biting into high-gear.
How or why Simonian was able to get his talons into the deal as deeply as he did and ultimately delayed the announcement for weeks and weeks remains one of the biggest mysteries of “#KakuWatch.”
01/03/2018 – Sacha Kljestan traded to Orlando City SC
The Red Bulls ultimately traded Kljestan along with a tidy sum of allocation for Carlos Rivas and Tommy Redding. Rivas would go on to score two goals in his debut for the team, while Redding proved a liability in his lone start against his former team and never played for the first team again.
At the end of the 2018 season the Red Bulls released Redding and Rivas.
01/23/2018 – TyC reports that Simonian received $700,000 to go away forever
The same outlet that originally reported that Kaku sale was now reported that his former agent was going to get more than 10% of the transfer fee just to make sure the move went through.
— The Natural, Roy Hobbs #9 (@101singer) January 23, 2018
— John (@NYC_JohnZ) January 25, 2018
01/30/2018 – Deal blocked again by Kaku’s lawyers, who want their own commission
Here we go again… It’s almost as if this move was fated not to happen.
01/31/2018 – Huracan chairman expresses transfer frustration, hinting at possible cancellation
Granted it may have been a misinterpretation of what he said, but this was the moment where panic was somewhere around its all-time high.
2/2/2018 – Kaku arrives at JFK airport
Turns out that the blockages were just smoke and mirrors as Kaku was all but ready to make the move as soon as his reps said it was okay.
He showed up at JFK airport and greeted fans.
From then on, it was just a matter of waiting and seeing what would happen.
El hombre valorado en 6 millones de dólares, que será el encargado de comandar a los @NewYorkRedBulls ante @CDOlimpia en la Champions League, ya se encuentra en Nueva York. @jcnfutbol1 @DeportesTVC @daeryramirez @kikelanza10 @dagoool19 pic.twitter.com/VYryHSGF3z
— Eduardo solano (@newguayork) February 2, 2018
2/16/2018 – Kaku announced as newest RBNY signing
At last #KakuWatch was over. And they presented a very well-done promo video to boot!
— Juan Escalante🔴⚫️ (@nerdwich) February 16, 2018
2/25/2018 – Kaku makes a 57′ start for the Red Bull reserves against Phoenix Rising
The first team heads to the Caribbean for a Concacaf Champions League showdown against CD Olimpia. ‘Kaku’ makes his first appearance with the reserves against the USL’s Phoenix Rising.
3/1/2018 – Kaku makes his first-team debut at Red Bull Arena in a 2-0 win over CD Olimpia
Red Bulls fans finally got to see the new signing in the flesh.
3/10/2018 – Kaku assists Ben Mines in first goal of the season in a 4-0 win over Portland Timbers
Playing out wide instead of his eventual No. 10 spot, Kaku found 17-year-old Ben Mines for the first goal of the season.
The assist would be Kaku’s first of 16 in all competitions.
And so ended #KakuWatch, one of the strangest and hand-wringingest times in Red Bulls history.
Will it go down in history as the strangest offseason transaction in team history? Time will tell.
Photo by Steve Hamlin