It started with Thierry Henry announcing he would not be returning. From there, the 2014 Red Bulls slowly fell apart. Head Coach Mike Petke was dismissed. Erik Alexander and Abroise Oyongo were traded to Montreal. Even Tim Cahill left for China. This team will resemble nothing of the 2014 version. That might not be a bad thing though. It was clear that it was time for change in New York. They have some pieces to build around in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Dax McCarty. Here is what has changed and what could happen next surrounding this MLS club.
Everything starts from the top down; Jesse Marsch replaced Petke. This is not Marsch’s first MLS gig as he headed the Montreal Impact in their inaugural season in 2012. Previous to that, Marsch had worked under former US Men’s National team manager Bob Bradley as an assistant for the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Gold Cup. Having some experience will be key if the Red Bulls want to even come close to matching last season’s success. The bigger issue for Marsch is that he probably still does not have his entire roster in place.
Marsch’s squad may have lost Oyongo and Alexander in the trade with the Impact but they did receive an allocation spot and midfielder Felipe Martins. Martins is a huge asset, as he will be the one running the midfield. He finished eighth in MLS last season with ten assists on the year. New York did not waste any time in using the allocation spot either as it snapped up Sacha Kljestan from Belgium’s Anderlecht. Kljestan has a history in the MLS, as he was actually an all-star in 2008 for Chivas USA. He also has 46 caps for the US National team. This might not be a huge splash, but he will be an experienced player ready to work and provide valuable leadership to New York.
Additionally, the Red Bulls have plenty of room to improve. With Henry and Cahill leaving, New York now has two designated player spots available to fill some major holes in the starting eleven. DP slots are available for teams to sign players that fall outside the threshold of the salary cap. The fact that Red Bulls have two of them is a big deal. That means they have the wiggle room to bring in big name talent. New York was in play for US international Jozy Altidore when it was clear he wanted a return to MLS but he is headed to Toronto instead. Rumors are that Marsch and company are looking for a top striker to pair with Wright-Phillips and probably a defensive back to help solidify the defense alongside Roy Miller.
New York could target a few different players. A young, yet difficult to acquire option would be Billel Omrani from Marseille. The 21-year old only has 4 appearances this season for the French side. He is a taller option at six foot flat making him an asset on crosses into the box and set pieces. He could be a good compliment to Wright-Phillips and a player for New York to keep around for a while. Another more feasible option would be attempting pry Anthony Stokes from Celtic. Stokes has been a great scorer and set up man at the forward position. He will likely not be too keen to leave the Scottish side he has played for since 2010, but the 26 year could be a very good fit next to Wright-Phillips in the Red Bulls attack. Can’t overlook as well his experience playing for the Republic of Ireland. International caps are very valuable, no matter who they are for.
On defense, the Red Bulls would be smart to target Tommy Smith from the English Championship team Ipswich town. The 24-year old is an international player for New Zealand and has the versatility to play left or center back. Another potential pickup would be 28-year old Danny Simpson from Leicester City in the Premier League. Simpson was part of the Manchester United youth academy as a teenager and the 28-year old would bring lots of experience to New York with his 107 total Premier League appearances.
The season is still roughly 6 weeks away so Marsch will have plenty of time to make some moves to solidify his roster. The Red Bulls are in a position where they could leave one of the DP slots open as well in hopes of landing a player in the summer transfer window. Either way this team is still far from a completed product. Keep an eye out for more new faces to make their way to New York in the coming months.