MLS 2015 Season Preview: New York Red Bulls

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 – L11

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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 – Forward

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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 – 8th 

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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?

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Seattle Sounders head coach Schmid hails “sublime” Martins and Dempsey

Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid has talked up the ability of strike partners Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey following their 6-0 preseason win over FC Tucson on Wednesday.

Dempsey bagged himself two goals in an emphatic performance, and although fellow forward Martins wasn’t on the scoresheet, he did play a hand in the first two goals, which has pleased Schmid.

“Some of the combinations, the goal where they combined on the 2nd goal, as a coach you just sit there and what do you say?” Schmid said while talking to the Seattle Sounders YouTube channel.

“I can’t teach that, we can’t diagram that and show them that. That’s just their instincts. And their ability to play off of each other is just so sublime.”

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The lethal partnership contributed an astonishing 55 goals between them via goals scored and goals assisted in the 2014 regular season and it looks as though they mean business again in 2015.

“I was happy for Clint, happy for the goals that he got because as a goalscorer you always want to get your confidence there. Oba (Martins) will be back on the board as well sometime soon,” Schmid added.

Lamar Neagle and Kevin Parsemain also both helped themselves to two goals each on the night.

How important will Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins be for Seattle Sounders in 2015?

Seattle Sounders midfielder Andy Rose full of praise for “fantastic” Gonzalo Pineda

Andy Rose is a midfielder that is very much still learning his trade at Seattle Sounders, but believes he’s developed his own game by being around players such as Gonzalo Pineda.

“He’s a fantastic player”, Rose told the Seattle Sounders YouTube channel. “Obviously you don’t play for the Mexican national team unless you have something special.  The way he collects the ball, how quickly he plays, his fitness levels are incredible.”

The 24-year-old Australian only featured six times in the 2014 MLS regular season, which gave him plenty of time to study Pineda’s style of play and it’s helped him learn crucial elements of becoming a successful midfielder.

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“He floats around, he’s very smart on the ball, he always knows what he’s going to do with it before he gets it, so these are things I think I’ve developed watching him and playing with him.”

Rose is also sure that a career in coaching is sat waiting for Pineda when he finally has to hang up his boots.

“He’s great with me, I think he’s going to go on and be a great coach just because he’s always talking to the youngsters and giving them little words of advice here and there, so obviously a great guy to learn from.”

Will Andy Rose step-up and become an important player for Seattle Sounders in 2015?

New York Red Bulls assistant coach Denis Hamlett says his “experience can help”

Denis Hamlett has joined up with Jesse Marsch as the New York Red Bulls assistant coach and is confident that their good relationship can have a positive influence on the club.

The pair previously worked together as the coaching team at Montreal Impact in the 2012 season and achieved a seventh place finish in the Eastern Conference.

When speaking to the New York Red Bulls YouTube channel, Hamlett said, “I’m extremely excited to be here with the staff and working with Jesse. I think the last ten days has gone really well for us in terms of the guys working hard, adjusting to the demands that Jesse wants the team to play.”

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Understanding

“We have a good relationship, but at the same time I think when we get on the field, I understand the things that he wants to get accomplished with the group, so I feel that it’s a good balance of me knowing him, but more importantly just getting stuff done on the field.”

“Because I know him so well, I understand the things that he wants to get accomplished from our days of working together in Chicago, so a lot of the stuff we do is similar.”

“I think my experiences can help him get across the messages that he wants his team to play and look like, and just be there as a good resource, I think that’s important.”

Will Jesse Marsch and Denis Hamlett work well together in 2015?

Youngster Zach Steinberger relishing new life at Houston Dynamo

Houston Dynamo selected midfielder Zach Steinberger as their eight pick during the MLS Soccer SuperDraft on January 15 and he’s since enjoyed the early stages of life as a professional soccer player.

He was previously the captain and lead scorer for the Michigan Bucks PDL team and then participated in the MLS combine on December 31.

The 22-year-old told Dynamo TV, “It’s a dream come true, I’ve been watching the MLS since I was a little kid. I had season tickets to the LA Galaxy when I was eight years old, so to come out here and play with guys who I’ve watched since that age like Brad Davis, DaMarcus Beasley, guys like that who I’ve looked up to for so long – it’s surreal still.

“I think it really kind of settled in for me when I took to the field for the first time, but it’s been a pretty amazing experience.”

Picture by: http://zachsteinberger.com/

Picture by: http://zachsteinberger.com/

DaMarcus Beasley in particular has helped Steinberger to feel at home during his first few training sessions and took him “under his wing.”

“The leadership in this team is second to none. The experience the guys have and the veterans taking the younger guys under their wing has definitely been prevalent throughout the entire week here.

“It’s a great team dynamic and the leadership is definitely not missing. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to start my professional career.”

Will Zach Steinberger be a hit at Houston Dynamo?

Full list of 2015 MLS Preseason Schedules

The 2015 MLS season in almost upon us but clubs must first get through preseason in order to pick up match fitness in time for the season kickoff in March.

Most clubs have released full details of their preseason plans but some have yet to confirm their upcoming friendlies, while others will expect to announce more in upcoming weeks.

All the announced preseason fixtures ahead of the 2015 MLS season are as follows:

Chicago Fire

Thursday February 5: Norwich City vs. Chicago Fire – England

Thursday February 12: Queens Park Rangers vs. Chicago Fire – England

Sunday February 22: Chicago Fire vs. Stabaek – Providence Park, Portland (2015 Simple Invitational)

Wednesday February 25: Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire – Providence Park, Portland (2015 Simple Invitational)

Saturday February 28: Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – Providence Park, Portland (2015 Simple Invitational)

Colorado Rapids

Sunday February 15: Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes – Las Vegas

Wednesday February 18: Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting Kansas City – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Saturday February 21: Colorado Rapids vs New England Revolution – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Wednesday February 25: FC Tucson vs. Colorado Rapids – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Saturday February 28: Colorado Rapids vs. TBD – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup

Columbus Crew

Friday February 13: Columbus Crew vs. FC Dallas – ATX Pro Challenge, Texas

Sunday February 15: Columbus Crew vs. Austin Aztex/DC United – ATX Pro Challenge, Texas

DC United

Friday February 13: Austin Aztex vs. DC United – ATX Pro Challenge, Texas

Sunday February 15: DC United vs. Columbus Crew/FC Dallas – ATX Pro Challenge, Texas

Friday February 20: FC Dallas vs. DC United – Toyota Stadium, Texas

Thursday February 26: Alajuelense vs. DC United – CONCACAF Champions League, Costa Rica

Wednesday March 4: DC United vs. Alajuelense – CONCACAF Champions League, RFK Stadium

ATX Pro Challenge

FC Dallas

Friday February 13: FC Dallas vs. Columbus Crew – ATX Pro Challenge, Texas

Sunday February 15: FC Dallas vs. Austin Aztex/DC United – ATX Pro Challenge, Texas

Friday February 20: FC Dallas vs. DC United – Toyota Stadium, Texas

Houston Dynamo

Wednesday February 4: Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo – Arizona

Saturday February 7: Houston Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers – Arizona

Saturday February 21: Charleston Battery vs. Houston Dynamo – Carolina Challenge Cup, South Carolina

Wednesday February 25: Houston Dynamo vs. New York City FC – Carolina Challenge Cup, South Carolina

Saturday February 28: Houston Dynamo vs. Orlando City SC – Carolina Challenge Cup, South Carolina

LA Galaxy

Monday February 16: Hammarby vs. LA Galaxy – Stockholm, Sweden

Saturday February 21: Shamrock Rovers vs. LA Galaxy – Ireland

Montreal Impact

Tuesday February 24: Pachuca vs. Montreal Impact – CONCACAF Champions League, Mexico

Tuesday March 3: Montreal Impact vs. Pachuca – CONCACAF Champions League, Olympic Stadium

New England Revolution

Wednesday February 18: New England Revolution vs. Real Salt Lake – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Saturday February 21: New England Revolution vs. Colorado Rapids – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Wednesday February 25: New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Saturday February 28: New England Revolution vs. TBD – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

New York City FC

Tuesday February 10: New York City FC vs. St. Mirren – Manchester

Sunday February 15: New York City FC vs. Brondby – Manchester

Saturday February 21: New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC – Carolina Challenge Cup, South Carolina

Wednesday February 25: New York City FC vs. Houston Dynamo – Carolina Challenge Cup, South Carolina

Saturday February 28: Charleston Battery vs. New York City FC – Carolina Challenge Cup, South Carolina

New York City FC and Orlando City SC

New York Red Bulls

Sunday February 1: New York Red Bulls vs. USF – Behind closer doors, Orlando

Thursday February 5: New York Red Bulls vs. Jacksonville Armada FC – Behind closed doors, Florida

Wednesday February 18: New York Red Bulls vs. HB Koge – IMG Tournament, Florida

Saturday February 21: New York Red Bulls vs. Oklahoma City Energy – IMG Tournament, Florida

Wednesday February 25:New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC – IMG Tournament, Florida

Saturday February 28: New York Red Bulls vs. TBD – IMG Tournament, Florida

Orlando City SC

Saturday February 21: Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC – Carolina Challenge Cup, South Carolina

Wednesday February 25: Charleston Battery vs. Orlando City SC – Carolina Challenge Cup, South Carolina

Saturday February 28: Orlando City SC vs. Houston Dynamo – Carolina Challenge Cup, South Carolina

Philadelphia Union

Friday February 7: Jacksonville Armada FC vs. Philadelphia Union – Florida

Portland Timbers

Saturday January 31: Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City – Arizona

Saturday February 7: Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo – Arizona

Sunday February 22: Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – Providence Park (2015 Simple Invitational)

Wednesday February 25: Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire – Providence Park (2015 Simple Invitational)

Saturday February 28: Portland Timbers vs. Stabaek – Providence Park (2015 Simple Invitational)

2015 Simple Invitational Portland

Real Salt Lake

Thursday February 12: Real Salt Lake vs. TBD – California

Wednesday February 18: Real Salt Lake vs. New England Revolution – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Saturday February 21: Real Salt Lake vs. Montreal Impact – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Wednesday February 25: Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Saturday February 28: Real Salt Lake vs. TBD – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

San Jose Earthquakes

Saturday February 7: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – Arizona

Sunday February 15: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Colorado Rapids – Las Vegas

Saturday February 21: Sacramento Republic vs. San Jose Earthquakes – California

Seattle Sounders

Wednesday February 18: FC Tucson vs. Seattle Sounders – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Saturday February 21: Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Wednesday February 25: Seattle Sounders vs. New England Revolution – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Saturday February 28: Seattle Sounders vs. TBD – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Sporting Kansas City

Saturday January 31: Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers – Arizona

Wednesday February 4: Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo – Arizona

Monday February 9: Sporting Kansas City vs. San Jose Earthquakes – Arizona

Wednesday February 18: Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Saturday February 21: Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Wednesday February 25: Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Saturday February 28: Sporting Kansas City vs. TBD – FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, Arizona

Toronto FC

Wednesday February 18: Toronto FC vs. Oklahoma City Energy FC – IMG Tournament, Florida

Saturday February 21: Toronto FCvs. HB Koge – IMG Tournament, Florida

Wednesday February 25: Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls – IMG Tournament, Florida

Saturday February 28: Toronto FC vs. TBD – IMG Tournament, Florida

Vancouver Whitecaps

Wednesday February 4: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. New England Revolution – Arizona

Saturday February 7: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes – Arizona

Tuesday February 10: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo – Arizona

Sunday February 22: Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – Providence Park (2015 Simple Invitational)

Wednesday February 25: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Stabaek – Providence Park (2015 Simple Invitational)

Saturday February 28: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Chicago Fire – Providence Park (2015 Simple Invitational)