Editorial (February 27, 2019) – For the New York Red Bulls, the 2018 season ended in familiar disappointment. Following a record-breaking number of points for the season and a third Supporters Shield, the team fell to eventual MLS Champions Atlanta United FC in the Eastern Conference Finals.
2019 New York Red Bulls Preview: Three Big Questions
Despite a mid-season shift at the helm to Coach Chris Armas and injuries that limited midfield options (Florian Valot and Vince Bezecourt), the team went 22-5-7. Making the playoffs for the ninth year in a row, they lost on aggregate goals to Atlanta. Currently in a preseason invitational tournament, they head to Costa Rica to meet Athletico Pantoja in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The most notable change following the season’s end was the departure of midfielder and Academy product Tyler Adams. His transfer to Leipzig, within the Red Bull organization, is a feather in the cap of American soccer development. He is already making strides on the pitch in Germany, which should result in call ups for the U.S. men’s national team as the Gold Cup takes place this summer.
Veteran center back Aurelien Collin signed with the Philadelphia Union. Tim Parker signed a new (and better) deal to stay in the Metro. Aaron Long, the other half of the dynamic CB duo, added two more caps for the USMNT, and was awarded the captaincy for both friendlies.
Is this the year of the Red Bulls?
Call it a curse; call it bad luck. MLS Cup has eluded the team for their entire existence. This year begins with the same opportunities as 2018. Ahead lie the CONCACAF Champions League, the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporter’s Shield, the Conference championship, and the MLS Cup. The Red Bulls only captured one accolade in 2018. The changes to the season and the playoff format clearly favor those who perform well throughout the regular season. If RBNY can maintain their playing style in all competitions, they stand a solid chance of acquiring more hardware.
Is the system still the only star?
The Red Bulls’ impact signing to date is Danish youth International Mathias Jørgensen. The eighteen-year-old had been receiving looks from Bundesliga teams when RBNY acquired him. A striker for Odense Boldklub in Denmark, he may prove to be heir to imminent legend Bradley Wright-Phillips.
With all the competitions on deck for the team, the priority is depth at all positions. For example, the return of Bezecourt and Valot, as well as defender Kyle Duncan and striker Ben Mines, signal a renewed overall roster depth. Defenders Amro Tarek and Marcus Epps offer additional depth in the back line, a weakness to this point for the team.
Is RBNY the top league rival?
With D.C. United working toward revival in the east, the classic Atlantic Cup rivalry will be alive and well this coming season. A younger and more homegrown squad across the river at NYCFC means a greater threat not only in league play but also during the Open Cup. And although Champions Atlanta United finally had their way against RBNY, their overall record against the Red Bulls leaves them wanting more. Add to that the former Red Bulls scattered around the league and the team’s point record, and they become the team to beat. If everyone loves a villain, then RBNY can be that for the league.
February 20th: CONCACAF Champions League, 1st leg vs Athletico Pantoja
March 2nd: MLS Opening Day vs Columbus Crew @ MAPFRE Stadium
March 16th: Home Opener vs San Jose
June 12th: Open Cup Round 4
October 6th: MLS Decision Day vs Montreal Impact @ Stade Saputo