The 2015 Supporters' Shield winners, the New York Red Bulls enjoyed excellent play from a team that many were unsure of coming into the season. Thanks to players like Bradley Wright-Phillips, Sacha Klejstan, and Dax McCarty, though, they not only came out of the regular season as the best team in the league, they impressed their way through the playoffs until they barely fell to Columbus in the Eastern Conference championship.
Their core remains largely intact after last season's successes, with only teenage defense sensation Matt Miazga representing a major departure from the team. They appear to have done well in replacing him with Ghanaian international Gideon Baah, however, and the rest of the squad is both talented enough and still young enough that there's no reason to expect a major drop-off barring a huge injury crisis. Will they win the Supporters' Shield again? Maybe, maybe not. A lot of already very good teams in MLS got better this winter, but NYRB are going to be competitive again, and they'll be a huge factor in both the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup races this season.
2015 record 18-10-6, 1st place in Eastern Conference and MLS
2015 Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals
Key additions Gideon Baah
Key losses Matt Miazga, Roy Miller
Projected starting XI (4-2-2-2) Luis Robles; Kemar Lawrence, Gideon Baah, Ronald Zubar, Chris Duvall; Dax McCarty, Felipe, Sacha Kljestan, Lloyd Sam; Gonzalo Veron, Bradley Wright-Phillips
The Red Bulls play a system where they dominate possession and suffocate the life out of other teams. It led to a dominant season last year, where the team was one game away from MLS Cup for the second year in a row. Also, the team has done a great job of embracing their new regime fully, so new fans will feel like they are just like any other older supporter.
The Red Bulls will have a host of new players that will look to add to the spine of the team. Striker Gonzalo Veron and center back Gideon Baah are expected to be two new starters this year as the Red Bulls shift from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-2-2-2. Veron is not technically a new edition, but the Argentine Designated Player should see a massive increase in his minutes played this year.
Lack of experienced depth. The Red Bulls opted for continuity this year keeping largely the same team from last year, but with the addition of seven homegrown signings. It is largely expected the homegrowns will split time with the Red Bulls and NYRB II, but if key starters such as Sacha Kljestan or Dax McCarty were to go down with injury there is no guaranteed proven MLS player to back them up. The Red Bulls are banking that their stellar academy will continue to produce MLS talent, but the team is an injury or two away from possibly needing to make a trade to shake things up.
Any time the Red Bulls play D.C. United it is a game to look forward to. The Red Bulls took the Atlantic Cup last year in convincing fashion and will look to retain it. The away game on May 13 will be the first meeting of the clubs with the next two matches not coming until late August and September. Those matches could have major playoff implications for both squads.