Saturday, January 19, 2013

New York Red Bulls Preseason Analysis

Red Bulls Come Into Camp Hoping To Change Club Fortunes

New York Red Bulls Writer, Emilio Lopez


After a disappointing end to their 2012 campaign the New York Red Bulls promptly began to dismantle a regime that led the club to three straight post season appearances, but one that failed to deliver a much elusive title. Red Bull head of Global Soccer Gérard Houllier quickly appointed veteran UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh as the teams Sporting Director while former interim president of AS Monaco Jérôme de Bontin continued as the team’s General Manager. The trio quickly started by trimming the roster and acquiring new players as well as looking for a new manager to replace the ousted Hans Backe.

The managerial process has been an arduous task as the Red Bulls have interviewed numerous candidates and the three key players in this process (Houllier, de Bontin, and Roxburgh) have had differing opinions on the type of coach the club needs to lead it in the right direction. In December it appeared as that man was finally selected, Gary McAllister. However, hefty wage demands from McAllister forced the club to turn in a different direction. That direction appears to be former Portuguese international and Videoton FC manager Paulo Sousa. Although the appointment has not been officially announced all signs point to an announcement being made early next week. Roxburgh was adamant that an American be appointed as Sousa’s number two, and it appeared that the position would be filled by former US international and New Jersey native Claudio Reyna. However, it appears that Reyna has rejected the position and the club must turn to another candidate, perhaps Tony Meola. What appears certain is that Sousa’s staff will include current interim coach Mike Petke and two additional assistants from Europe selected by Sousa. Although the managerial search has left many Red Bull supporters and pundits alike questioning the Red Bulls decision making process, it could turn out that McAlister’s reluctance to accept the Red Bull’s terms may in fact be a blessing for the club as Sousa appears to be the better candidate for the job. Sousa has had a mixed bag in his managerial career, starting with a turbulent period in his first job with Queens Park Rangers, to a relatively successful period with Swansea City, which has led some to credit Sousa with starting the process that would eventually lead the Swans to the Premier League. He then took over a troubled Leicester City and after a rough few months was out of work. His greatest success came with his most recent club, Hungary’s Videoton FC, a club that made a name for itself on the continent for its style of play and its historic run in the Europa League. Sousa’s teams are noted for their sound defensive play and possession style. He prefers to play in a 4-3-3 formation with two speedy wingers and a target striker up top.

Now let’s looks at what the 2013 Red Bulls squad will look like:


A position that at this time a year ago seemed to be a cause for concern for the Red Bulls now looks as a position of strength for the team. Going into this preseason second year keeper Ryan Meara goes into camp battling it out with Luis Robles for the starting position. Last year Meara started the pre-season just hoping to be the teams 3rd keeper and his fine form catapulted him into the starting lineup. However, an untimely injury 18 games into the season sidelined the New York native for the rest of the year and ended his hopes of capturing the league’s rookie of the year award. Robles ended the season as New York’s number 1 after arriving from Karlsruher SC in August of 2012; months after the club had originally tried to sign the keeper. Robles form at the end of the season and during the playoffs reminded many of the form that led the Arizona native to be called into the US National team in 2009. Santiago Castano was added to the mix this offseason as the Red Bulls signed the promising 17 year old keeper from their academy system. Going into the preseason it looks like Robles is the early favorite to guard the New York goal, but he will need to maintain his form to keep his place over Meara.


Although the team conceded 46 goals in 34 matches in 2012 the team has a good group of defenders in place and should show defensive improvement this season. The center back combination of Markus Holgersson and newly acquired Jamison Olave has the potential of being a strength for the club. The Swede Holgersson initially struggled in his debut season for New York, but by midseason was an effective player for New York, disrupting many would be attacks while contributing offensively on set pieces. Olave comes to New York from Real Salt Lake after battling through injuries in 2012. If the Colombian regains the form that made him one of the top defenders in the league New York’s rivals may have a hard time breaking them down. Another player who can step up for New York in the middle is former US international Heath Pierce. The former Hansa Rostock man helped improve New York’s defense after arriving from Chivas USA during the season. However, due to injuries he played both centrally and at left back. If everything goes according to plan Pierce should start the season as New York’s starting left back and should continue to display the form that has made him one of the league’s best players at that position.  At right back New York has many good options to choose from. Newly acquired Kosuke Kimura helped Colorado capture an MLS Cup playing in that spot and second year player Connor Lade had a promising first year for New York playing in various positions including right back. However, Brandon Barklage may be the favorite to open the season at right back for New York. Barklage endured numerous injuries while with DC United and last year with New York proved to be a revelation at right back due to his contribution to New York’s attack and solid defensive play. With the attacking and possession style that Paulo Sousa likes Barklage may be the best suited for the role. Other defenders on New York’s roster include Colombian center back Wilman Conde, who is a very good defender but has injury concerns and Costa Rican Roy Miller who is a good offensive left back, but at times struggles defensively. Look for one of those two to be let go in the next few weeks, most likely Miller.



Currently New York only has five midfielders on its roster, but that should be set to change as the team is looking to sign additional players. If Sousa plays his traditional 4-3-3 formation it appears that the steady Dax McCarty will play in the middle and continue to provide bite and distribution for the Red Bulls. More will be expected of second year man Tim Cahill in attack for New York. Cahill played effectively in the middle of the park for New York after arriving midseason from Everton; however the club will be looking for goals from the Australian international. During the offseason New York signed former Vasco de Gama star Juninho Pernambucano to help spearhead the clubs attack. Juninho, who will be 38 by the time the season starts, was still one of the best midfielders in the Brazilian league despite his age. He is also considered as one of the best free kick takers in the history of the sport and should easily make New York one of the most dangerous sides in the league on set pieces. Former Charlton Athletic man Lloyd Sam returns for his first full season with New York, and the speedy winger should continue to cause problems for defenses. Sam can play on either side of the pitch and may even see minutes as a wide forward. With the 22nd pick in the Super Draft New York selected defensive midfielder Ian Christianson. Christianson was regarded by many as one of the best if not best holding midfielders in the draft and is noted for his passing skills. He should serve as cover for Dax McCarty. New York holds the first pick in the Supplemental draft and will most likely select a wide midfielder to help compliment the group. Additionally, Charleston Battery midfielder Nicki Patterson will join the club during the preseason in hopes of cementing a spot on the club. The Scottish midfielder could provide cover in various positions if signed.


When you think of the Red Bulls you think of Thierry Henry, and that will most likely not change this season. The dynamic Henry had a terrific season for New York in 2012 scoring 15 goals and providing 12 assists, and in Sousa’s system will probably feature as a center forward. That does not bode well for leading scorer Kenny Cooper who in 2012 scored 18 goals. The goal total looks nice for Cooper but if examined closely you realize he scored 11 of those goals in the first nine games of the season and ended the season scoring 7 goals in his last twenty four matches. New York has been looking to deal Cooper as despite his size he is not a classic #9 and his glaring lack of speed hurt New York on numerous occasions last year. If Cooper remains on the squad it is not a foregone conclusion that he will remain a starter. Numerous names have been bantered about as being potential replacements for the American; they include former PSG man Peguy Luyindula, Jermaine Easter of Crystal Palace and most recently Fernando Cavenaghi of Villarreal. Cavenaghi seems to be the best fit but he will probably not be available until the end of June, when his contract with the Spanish club expires. Fabian Espindola was acquired in the off season from Real Salt Lake and the former Boca Juniors product should help in the attack. His pace and play making ability should mesh well with Henry’s style of play. New York also acquired Costa Rican international Josue Martinez from Philadelphia in the off season. Martinez at one time was heavily rated and was seen by many as the future of Saprissa, however after a disappointing first season in MLS, New York is hoping the 22 year old can recapture his form and be an effective option for the club. New York also signed academy product and USA U-17 international Amando Moreno. Moreno isn’t expected to contribute much this season but is considered a promising player for the future. Expect another forward to be signed by New York and for Cooper to be dealt if the right move comes along.

Season Projection

If New York remains relatively injury free and completes some of their pending signings (the team has 2 international roster spots available and it can increase if Roy Miller or another defender is released) the Red Bulls have a chance of being very good. Expect the Red Bulls to finish the regular season 18-8-8 (62 points) and finish on top in a very tough Eastern conference, and with a chance to capture a much elusive title.

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