While it is still too early to lay down a marker for the New York Red Bulls, we're going to take a look at what we could look forward to in the 2014 season.
By no means do I expect this to be a regular look for this team, as the defensive wing positions in particular should be up for grabs. I also expect to see regular rotation, particularly in the attacking midfield.
We're going to go with a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Luis Robles should have this spot nailed down. The 29-year-old recorded 34 games played in
2013; notching 17 wins and 11 clean sheets and finishing 4th in MLS Goalkeeper of the Year voting. Expect similar numbers for Robles in 2014.
The right back position is one, as I mentioned, that I think is up for grabs. The battle will likely be between incumbent Kosuke Kimura and the newly acquired, former Manchester United man, Richard Eckersley. I have a feeling the Eckersley will win out in the end, but I haven’t seen enough of him to be sure.
Luckily at least one position along the back four is a solid lock, and that’s the presence of defensive beast Jamison Olave. Barring injury, Olave should start just about every MLS game this season for the Red Bulls. I am further bolstered in this claim by the recent signing of Olave to a new bumper deal with the club.
The question now is who will partner Olave? I had a feeling all winter that the center back pairing going into next season would carry over with the retaining of Markus Holgersson. However, when an FA cup winning club like Wigan come calling, you answer the call. So, it was no surprise then to see the club sign La Liga journeyman Armando as a replacement. While I think he will be the man to partner Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya already has some time with
the club under his belt.
Left-back, for me, has been the most frustrating position for NYRB over the past 3-4 years. One minute Roy Miller looks every bit the 44times capped distinguished Costa Rican star, the next he is “intentionally” encroaching penalty areas, giving Chris Wondolowski second chances at penalties. There is no doubting Miller’s ability for sure, but I’m sometimes forced to
question his decision making. With only Connor Lade on the roster for competition, expect Miller to resume his role as the team’s starting left sided defender. He deserves it, but he needs to prove he should retain it.
Dax McCarty is the incumbent and I don’t see anyone on this roster usurping him in that role.
The right side of the midfield is another toss-up. I think the battle for minutes will be between Eric Alexander and Lloyd Sam. I really don’t know what to make of this one. While Alexander has got the consistency and experience, Sam has got the potential and the flair. I am going to go out on a limb and say Lloyd Sam ends up with more minutes played by season’s end.
Tim Cahill will return as the beating hard of the middle of the Red Bulls’ midfield. Cahill is a solid box-to-box type with plenty of miles left in the tread despite being 34 years old. We are all aware of the Australian’s qualities, hard in the tackle, quick with the pass, and absolutely
brilliant in the air.
The left wing is the most exciting position battle for me in 2014. The rise to prominence of Jonny Steele was one of the truly great stories of the Red Bulls’ season, making 36 appearances and scoring 6 goals. New to the team, coming in a trade from Toronto FC, is former United States international, and one of my all-time favourites, Bobby Convey. I love Bobby Convey, while he won’t likely score the goals that Steele does, he more than makes up for that with his guile, his crosses and his ability to provide a great pass. All that being
said, Convey had a pretty dour year in Toronto, making 21 appearances, scoring once and providing four times. I think Steele will begin the season as the starter, but I really can’t be sure and I expect, or at least I hope, for Convey to push him hard.
The spot directly behind the striker will partner with Cahill, but while I expect Tim to drop slightly deeper I have distinguished between the two midfield roles. For the more advanced attacking midfielder I have nominated non-other than the illustrious Peggy Luyindula. I remember watching Luyindula star for PSG before they became the new moneybags on the block, and only loving what I saw. If he can be half the player for NYRB he was for PSG we
can expect great things from the French international. Normally deployed as a striker, I think he will fit better into this squad playing directly behind Henry, occasionally swapping places with him to keep the defence off guard. I imagine Marius Obekop will get some time here as well.
Thierry Henry is the clear cut choice. While we have seen him play as the second striker numerous times over the course of his Red Bulls’ career, I think he is still best served as the man getting at the end of moves. His finishing is still sublime, despite the fact that he will be turning 37 this summer. Speaking of his age, there is no way Henry can play week in week out in MLS, it’s too gruelling; on his days off expect Bradley Wright-Phillips to cover for the ageing superstar. I wouldn’t mind Akpan getting some minutes at the forward spot either.
That just about does it. As always, please leave your comments below!
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