As the 2015 season draws closer, we’ll have a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what the New York Red Bulls will be looking to achieve this season…
The New York Red Bulls endured a slightly frustrating campaign last season in the Eastern Conference but their playoff form was good and they must take positives into the new season after only narrowly missing out on a place in the MLS Cup final. It would appear difficult for fans to take positives into the new season at this point however after an offseason of major changes at the club. This could be a transitional season for the Red Bulls as Mike Petke has gone, a new manager is in and several key players have departed, none more important to the side than Thierry Henry, who hung up his boots at the end of the 2014 campaign.
Last season’s finish: Eastern Conference position: 4th – P34 – W13 – D10 – L11Embed from Getty Images
What needs to change this year?
The Red Bulls need to find a killer instinct in games, something which they lacked on occasions last season and they must concede fewer goals. To have had top scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips in their side and only end the campaign with a +5 goal difference is proof of their inability to shut teams out. The Eastern Conference was closely contested last year with just nine points separating the New York Red Bulls in 4th and DC United at the top. With such fine margins and an even more competitive conference this season, they must perform at the highest level for every game.
The Eastern Conference is going to be fiercely competitive this year, with new teams New York City FC and Orlando City looking to raise a few eyebrows, while the New England Revolution look strong candidates to push all the way as they did last campaign. So it is essential that the Red Bulls get off to a strong start this season if they are to have any chance of making the playoffs. That will give supporters confidence, something that is crucial at this stage and new head coach Jesse Marsch will need the fans on his side if his team are to be successful.
Key changes to squad
Ins: Kyle Reynish – Goalkeeper, Andrew Jean-Baptiste – Defender, Damien Perrinelle – Defender, Ronald Zubar – Defender, Sal Zizzo – Midfielder, Leo Stolz – Midfielder, Felipe Martins – Midfielder, Sacha Kljestan – Midfielder, Mike Grella – Forward.
Outs: Thierry Henry – forward, Tim Cahill – Midfield, Ryan Meara – Goalkeeper, Kosuke Kimura – Defender, Ibrahim Sekagya – Defender, Richard Eckersley – Defender, Jamison Olave – Defender, Ambroise Oyongo – Defender, Bobby Convey – Midfielder, Eric Alexander – Midfielder, Saer Sene – Forward.
Key player: Bradley Wright-Phillips – ForwardEmbed from Getty Images
Wright-Phillips is undoubtedly the key man for the Red Bulls and he has even more weight on his shoulders with the key departures of Henry and Cahill. He showed last season what a brilliant goalscorer he is and how he can be the difference in the side. It will be difficult for him to match last seasons total of 27 but he will be determined to try and beat that and continue where he left off. He has signed a Designated Player contract and his performances will be essential to how the Red Bulls get on this season. Without the extra threat of Henry, teams will set up to focus more attention on BWP as they know he will be the man to stop. The Englishman will certainly fight for his team and it will be interesting to see how he gets on after such a brilliant season last time out.
One to watch: Ronald Zubar – Defender
Ronald Zubar could well make the difference at the heart of the Red Bulls defence and with his vast experience of playing in top European competitions, his teammates can learn a lot from him. Zubar has nine Champions League appearances to his name and it will be intriguing to see how his Red Bull career will unfold. At 30 he still has a few years ahead of him and could play a crucial role in helping New York steady the ship.
Predicted finish: Eastern Conference – 8thEmbed from Getty Images
The fact is that the Red Bulls look to have changed too much, too quickly. It will take time for Jesse Marsch to get his new ideas across to his players and the squad has changed dramatically too. Star striker Wright-Phillips is still there but without the support of Henry it will be a monumental challenge to build on his 27 goals in the regular season last year. A good start is crucial but it looks like the Red Bulls may have to settle for a year of transition before coming back stronger in 2016.
How do you think New York Red Bull will fare in 2015?