With 3 Supporters Shields now to its name, RBNY still seeks the elusive cup
The Red Bulls were the best team in the regular season in 2018 and it was the third time the organization has achieved that feat. But does it have what it takes to finally win MLS Cup for the first time in its history? ASN's Mark Fishkin preview's the team's season
BY Mark Fishkin PostedTHREE SUPPORTERS Shields over six seasons, with three different coaches. Two straight runs to the Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals. Nine straight postseason appearances. A US Open Cup Final appearance. The New York Red Bulls have put together as impressive a run as any this decade in Major League Soccer. The team’s inability to reach, let alone win MLS Cup continues to drive the team that set a league record for points in a season, and best home record in 2018.
February 27, 2019
February 27, 2019
New York will compete for five trophies this year, and according the team leadership, the Red Bulls will be going hard after every one. Leveraging the club’s vaunted development pipeline, in addition to shrewd international additions, provide depth to Chris Armas’ roster and hope to the fan base that this will finally be the year.
Looking at the team on a unit-by-unit basis offers a look at why the Red Bulls feel confident heading into the year.
Luis Robles, Ryan Meara, Evan Louro
No changes to the stingiest goalkeeping core in the league, which held opposing attacks to less than a goal per game in 2018. Even when MLS Ironman Robles missed his first action since 2012 last season, Ryan Meara delivered, posting a 1.00 goals against average over a three-match stint in net.
The Big Question: Very few here. Meara, who’s currently recovering from injury would be a starter on any other MLS side.
Kemar Lawrence, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Amir Murillo, Connor Lade, Kyle Duncan, Sean Nealis, Amro Tarek
Credit to Red Bulls Sporting Director Denis Hamlett and management for signing Best XI defenders Long and Lawrence, as well as Tim Parker, to long-term contract extensions. The three, along with Panamanian International Amir Murillo, form the best backline in the league. Lawrence’s injury absence in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals was a big reason New York came up short.
The Jamaican’s ability to make recovery runs are a crucial component to the Red Bulls’ high pressing style. Connor Lade continues to do quality work as the first choice off the bench. Kyle Duncan was a great surprise at outside back in 2018 before injury ended his campaign. Tim Weah’s cousin is back and healthy. Hofstra grad Sean Nealis is a centerback in the Red Bulls mold: rangy, quick, and physical. Amro Tarek is a strong depth player.
The Big Question: Can New York’s second defensive team perform during the Gold Cup? With Lawrence and Murillo sure to play for their national teams, and Long (and possibly Parker) getting looks with the USMNT, The Red Bulls may be without their first four choices in the back for as many as six or seven league matches, including a rematch with Atlanta United on the same day as the Gold Cup final.
Kaku, Danny Royer, Alex Muyl, Sean Davis, Marc Rzatkowski, Florian Valot, Vincent Bezecourt, Crisitan Casseres, Jr., Derrick Etienne, Jr., Marcus Epps, Andreas Ivan, Omir Fernandez, Jean-Christophe Koffi, Ben Mines
New York’s midfield corps is deep with a mix of proven internationals and homegrowns, and newcomers looking for minutes. Of course, the unit needs to make up for the departure of Tyler Adams, who’s tearing up the Bundesliga. Savvy veteran Marc Rzatkowski will slide into his preferred position as a six/eight next to Sean Davis.
Teen Casseres Jr., who coaches have said is in the Adams mold, will push for minutes during schedule congestion. Kaku (at least until the Summer transfer window) and Danny Royer are locks to start, and Alex Muyl’s defensive hustle will keep him on the right for now, The return from injury from 2018 revelation Florian Valot will put pressure on Armas to get on the field. Throw in Union castoff Epps, RB2 callup Bezecourt, and homegrowns Etienne, Jr., Fernandez, Koffi, and Mines, and, and there’s a lot of talent without enough of slots with the first team. 2018 addition Ivan nabbed his first Red Bulls goal in the CCL on Wednesday night.
The Big Questions: Is Casseres, Jr. ready to assume Adams’ role? When will be given the chance? Can Muyl hold onto his starting spot? Who will drive the attack if Kaku is sold midseason? Can Armas keep the second group happy with USL minutes until called on? If Kaku isn't sold over the summer, can he stay focused on delivering New York the Cup?
Bradley Wright-Phillips, Brian White, Mathias Jorgensen
New York’s all-time leading scorer will continue his climb up the league chart, and will benefit if Royer and others can find the net regularly. Brian White will see minutes off the bench, but the largely untested teen Jorgensen will be fascinating to watch. While New York has plumbed Central and South America for teen talent (see Casseres, Jr., Alan Yanes with RB2), a young European player flying west to MLS for development is something new. Call it the Adams effect.
The Big Questions: Will BWP continue his unmatched scoring consistency? What does Jorgensen have to show?
New York starts the MLS slate with a gift from the league. After visiting Columbus on Saturday, the Red Bulls have 2018 also-rans San Jose, Orlando, Chicago away, and Minnesota before visiting fellow CCL combatant Sporting KC, then New England away and Cincinnati. Despite juggling the CCL at the same time, New York could finish April with five or six wins.
The reckoning will come over the summer, with a trip to Atlanta and NYC at home on back-to-back weekends, with a trip to Toronto three days later. The Red Bulls have a legitimate beef with the scheduling office, with both Rivalry Week matches away (at DCU, at NYC) over a four day span in late August.
New York finishes out the schedule with a double dip in Cascadia (at SEA, at POR), then the Union at home for three matches in eight days. After hosting DCU, the Red Bulls will spend Decision Day in Montreal.
New York is a veteran side that returned ten of eleven starters. The side became the first team in the CCL era to win knockout ties in successful years. Should their key players stay healthy, the Red Bulls will once again contend for the Shield. Fans, however, want the MLS Cup.