The New York Red Bulls have made their best start to a Major League Soccer campaign in eight years, since they went unbeaten through the first five games in the 2007 season, and things are certainly looking promising.
Few would have thought anyone would be saying the words ‘Red Bulls’ and ‘promising’ after four weeks of the 2015 season as an offseason filled with negativity filled even the most upbeat supporter with pessimism.
The Red Bulls are not afraid to change things. The club have had more head coaches in the league’s 20 year history than any other team and radical change is something Red Bulls fans have become accustomed to.
But when club legend and head coach Mike Petke was fired at the turn of the year, supporters felt let down. They reacted badly to the decision made by sporting director Ali Curtis to fire Petke, just a month after star man Thierry Henry had hung up his boots.
Tim Cahill then left the club in February and new head coach Jesse Marsch didn’t really have the fans on his side as they opened the new season away at Sporting Kansas City at the beginning of March.
But this team looks good. Real good. Henry is irreplaceable, there is no doubt about that, but his departure has forced the Red Bulls to improve as a team. They are playing as a collective group, rather than a group of individuals and Marsch feels that this team could be heading for success.
“This team keeps pushing,” he said after he watched his side beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 on Saturday. “It keeps coming together and I really like these guys. There’s something happening here and I think we all can feel it.
“I feel like we’re only going to get better so it’s been a good start but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Marsh’s comments were said with excitement. He knows he has a great squad at his disposal. Bradley Wright-Phillips equalled the single-season goalscoring record with 27 last year but he looks to be a more complete player under Marsch and has already started the new year with two goals and two assists in three games.
It took Wright-Phillips eight games to get his second goal of the 2014 season on his way to winning the Golden Boot last time out and so he is already looking set for a better campaign so long as he can stay consistent.
His fellow Englishman, Lloyd Sam has looked in fine form so far and he has stepped up his game in the absence of Henry early on, while Sacha Kljestan looks like he was one of the signings of the offseason.
Red Bulls bosses clearly felt Marsch was the man to take this team forward and they certainly look to be going in the right direction at this early stage.
They have picked up seven points from their opening three games, drawing at Sporting KC before back-to-back wins against DC United and the Columbus Crew – all three are top sides who will expect to be in the MLS Playoffs once again this season, so they are impressive results for Jesse Marsch’s side.
New York Red Bulls after three games in 2015:
They have gone unbeaten through three games, picking up an average of 2.33 points-per-game – a total only bettered by FC Dallas so far this season.
That’s already a major improvement from the start they made a year ago as it took the Red Bulls seven games to pick up their first win in 2014.
New York Red Bulls after three games in 2014:
Mike Petke watched his side concede six goals in their opening three games against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Chicago Fire and Colorado Rapids last season. Vancouver made the playoffs last year but Colorado and Chicago were two of the worst teams, making their results against better teams this time around all the more impressive.
The New York Red Bulls are a team that should be winning trophies and achieving success year by year. Things looked to be going perfectly when they lifted the 2013 MLS Supporters’ Shield but back-to-back playoff failures have cast further shadows over the club. Shadows that need to be removed.
The emergence of New York City FC has just reinforced the fact that the Red Bulls must deliver. They have to try and dominate the Big Apple as well as the rest of Major League Soccer and the start they have made will certainly fill supporters with early season optimism.
They were just one game away from the title game last season as the New England Revolution beat them in the Eastern Conference Championship game. Early improvements this season could lead to greater success come December.
It is early but the Red Bulls look like a side ready to win their first-ever MLS Cup in 2015.