MLS ’12 Preview – New York Red Bulls

Update: Due to unforeseen circumstances, the New England Revolution preview will appear either tomorrow or Wednesday on this site. We will also have the D.C. United preview in the near future. – Ed.   

Team: New York Red Bulls

Head Coach: Hans Backe

2011 Record: 10-8-16 38 Points, 5th in the East, 10th Overall

Hashtag: #RBNY

As always, this side on the East Coast has expectations to get into a deep playoff run and reach the MLS Cup Final. But after such a promising start to 2011, something went terribly wrong starting with a foot injury to Luke Rodgers, and for some reason all this side could do was either draw or lose.

The Captain of Mexico’s National Team Rafa Marquez displayed some frustration with his role reduced and called out his former teammate Tim Ream for causing infantile mistakes. But when Rodgers did make his return from injury, the winning ways came back, and they earned the last playoff spot.

Even though they defeated FC Dallas in the one-match playoff and lost in the Quarterfinals (along with a fight at the end of the first leg) to the Champion Los Angeles Galaxy, you would think the club would have learned from last season and fixed their problems.

Coaching and Front Office: Once again Erik Soler & Hans Backe will be running the show from the Cathedral of Soccer in the USA. The problems of Backe’s lack of substitutions stemmed from his displeasure of the reserves that didn’t play up to their potential. Yet at the same time, his lack of respect for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament was also glaring as well.

But with some of the new additions to the club, both in the starting eleven and the reserves, it seems like all is right in the world with Backe. Reports have even come out saying that he will be gung-ho in all Cup competitions this season.

Key Additions: Swedish Central Defender Markus Holgersson is a tower of a man that appears to be a good addition in preventing goals from being leaked through.

He is waiting for his center back partner, former Chicago Fire & Atlas man Wilman Conde, to get match fit. After wanting to come toNew York and having a stint with Atlas down inMexico, the Colombian finally got his wish.

The SuperDraft day surprise was the deal that brought Kenny Cooper fromPortland to the Red Bulls. But with four pre-season matches Cooper has scored two goals and looked a little out of sorts when he was paired up with Thierry Henry against UNAM Pumas. The deal on the surface looks a steal for the Red Bulls.

Key Losses: The European winter transfer of Tim Ream to Bolton right now looks to be a decent piece of business. Ream was a part of the 2-0 win in the 5th Round of the FA Cup, but just lost toChelsea in his first EPL match. We do wish him the best of luck over inEngland.

At the moment it’s a loss, but hopefully we can remove Luke Rodgers’ name from the list soon. After such a great season in MLS last year,  the formerShrewsburyTown andNottsCounty striker is having visa problems returning to the states fromEngland. Apparently it’s from an incident that happened many years ago, but if he can secure his visa to return all will be right in the world.

The retirement of former Hamburgkeeper Frank Rost has left a hole at the position. Drafted Fordham starter Ryan Meara, as well as Jeremy Vuolo, have likely been brought in to be used as backup & third string, but if certain plans don’t come to fruition, one of the two could be starting.

Projected Starters: With the situation in goal and the way both men performed in their first matches in Arizona (Vuolo in the Desert Diamond Cup & Meara against UNAM Pumas), right now I give the edge to Vuolo who looked solid and didn’t cough up a single rebound.

The backline will have Roy Miller & Jan Gunnar Solli as the fullbacks, while Holgersson & Conde will be the center back pairing. With the size of these two arrivals, it will be interesting to see what will happen on offensive set pieces and corners.

In midfield the flank players are Joel Lindpere on the left and Dane Richards on the right. The attack will come from the wings as Rafa Marquez & Teemu Tainio will be in the middle trying to stop what’s coming their way. But while the supporters are screaming for an attacking player in the middle, Soler has said that will happen during the summer transfer window.

Up top it looks to be Cooper & Henry if Rodgers can’t get back to the club with his visa issues. For Henry, a two month loan stint back at Arsenal did wonders for him, and he looks focused and ready for action.

Player to Watch: Right now it looks like the keeper situation is the important spot for this club. With the history of heroes in net such as Tony Meola, Tim Howard, Johnny Walker, Danny Cepero, Mike Ammann, and (at one time) Bouna Coundoul, the spotlight of uncertainty has finally fallen on the keeper spot.

New Yorkwas going to bring in Luis Robles from Karlsruher SC of the Bundesliga 2 league on a discovery claim. After further inspection of his status however, the league changed their mind and deemed him eligible for an allocation lottery. So Robles remains inGermanyfor now.

Assuming nothing changes on the Robles front, from what I have seen from both players, I give the edge to Vuolo and wouldn’t mind him starting at all.

Best Case Scenario: The Red Bulls actually have everything fall into place, and they hover around the top three spots in the east when they get their central attacking midfielder. When that happens they make a push for the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The bickering continues, and Hans Backe fails to make more than one sub before or after the 75th minute. They will continue to have goals scored on them as they lose concentration.

Prediction: If their reserves are better and can give a rest to Henry or Cooper once in a while they could be dangerous and have a deep run into the MLS Cup Playoffs, possibly going to the final of the US Open Cup. We shall see what happens.

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