The New York Red Bulls have been one of the best teams in MLS over the last few years, but despite winning the Supporters’ Shield twice their fans still aren’t quite satisfied with what they’ve done so far. They want the MLS Cup more than anything else, and they’re willing to go to any length to get it.
They have a strong enough squad to challenge for the title and didn’t change much from last year’s team — but the one change they did make was a big one. The loss of Dax McCarty is one that could prove to hurt in the long run of the season, as his quality might be sorely missed in midfield. Hopefully New York don’t come to regret letting him go, because they have little room for error if they’re going to finally accomplish their goal and stand on top of MLS at the end of the season.
There will be a lot of pressure on Sean Davis and Tyler Adams to fill his shoes, but Jesse Marsch thinks they’re up to the task.
2016 record: 16-9-9, first in Eastern Conference
2016 playoffs: Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals to Montreal Impact
Head coach: Jesse Marsch
Key additions: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Key losses: Dax McCarty
Projected starting XI (4-2-2-2): Luis Robles; Kemar Lawrence, Aurélien Collin, Aaron Long, Sal Zizzo; Sean Davis, Felipe Martins; Daniel Royer, Sacha Kljestan; Gonzalo Veron, Bradley Wright-Phillips
Major trophies won, all-time: 2013, 2015 Supporters’ Shield
What we think of our team: Beaten down, but resilient. The Red Bulls — previously the MetroStars — were known for pretty much total futility until just a few years ago. There’s still the feeling the team isn’t able to win trophies as often as they should, but the hope is this is just the beginning of a golden age.
What outsiders think of our team: “At least they aren’t NYCFC. Seriously though, they have some great players and after a rough start they really got things together last year. Sounds like there have been some significant changes in the offseason, but I still wouldn't want to face them in the MLS Cup Final.”
Red Bulls’ biggest rival: It’s easy to point to the noisy neighbors, NYCFC, as the new rivals for RBNY. Attendance and ratings between the two eclipses any other matches for the respective clubs. Given their proximity, it’s also a fight for territorial supremacy.
But ultimately rivals are built on the field. After 21 seasons and 87 matches played between the two clubs, D.C United has solidified itself as the biggest rival of RBNY. A “rivalry” with NYCFC in which RBNY has enjoyed five wins and only one loss, no playoff matches, and no real “big” defining moments outside of an astounding 7-0 match, honestly doesn’t deserve the title of rivalry at all. Especially not over DCU, which has more than earned its place.
Best social media follow: Bradley Wright-Phillips (@TheRealBWP) may have a standard athlete’s profile, but when it includes a posed shot of him resting in a wheelchair with his wife pushing him — right after his wife has given birth — you know there’s comedy gold in his musings.
Our season hinges on … so much of this season’s success depends on how well existing key players settle in with a “new” 4-2-2-2 formation, and how well they can cope with losing Dax McCarty. The formation seemed to be ready to make its big splash in 2016 until a series of injuries nearly derailed their entire season. Can they make it work all year the second time around?
Why this year won’t be like last year: The attacking pieces will be more used to a system and will complement each other properly, instead of just waiting for Kljestan or BWP to work some magic. If the attack is clicking, then persistent questions about the defense may not matter in the end.
Key player: Gonzalo Veron — fans have been waiting for him to really make a mark since he arrived during the 2015 season, but a series of injuries and concerns he may not fit Marsch’s system have led to his promise being so far unfulfilled. If he does come good in 2017? He could elevate the Red Bulls to a level that will make them unstoppable.
Projected finish in 2017: Third in the Eastern Conference.
Wild prediction: After 21 seasons, I am confident this will be the year cups come home. Yes, cups. This is the year that RBNY shocks everyone by having the talent and depth to win not just the MLS Cup, but also the U.S. Open Cup.