2013 New York Red Bulls Preview: New coach, new fortunes?
2012 record: 16-9-9 (57 points); 57 GF / 46 GA (+11 GD)
With just days left until opening day, MLSsoccer.com is halfway through previewing each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part one of two previewing New York's 2013 season. You can find Part 2 here.
Setting the Scene
Another year, another failed attempt to live up to lofty expectations.
The 2012 season was aforgettable one for the New York Red Bulls, who were once again unable to lift their first MLS Cup trophy despite boasting a roster that included the likes of Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Rafa Márquez. Making matters worse, the Red Bulls were knocked out of the playoffs by archrivals D.C. United in a memorable Eastern Conference semifinal series.
That disappointment led to the departures of former head coach Hans Backe and a bevy of players. Now a new era is set to begin in New York. Mike Petke, a longtime member of the club, was named head coach and he brought in a number of Americans, players with MLS experience and dead-ball specialist Juninho Pernambucano with the hope that they will finally help end the club’s 17-year silverware drought.
In and Out
IN: D Jámison Olave (12/3: trade/Real Salt Lake); F Fabián Espíndola (12/3: trade/Real Salt Lake); D Kosuke Kimura (12/3: trade/Portland Timbers); F Josué Martínez (12/6: trade/Philadelphia Union); GK Santiago Castano (12/11: Homegrown signing); F Amando Moreno (12/11: Homegrown signing); M Juninho Pernambucano (12/17: free/Vasco da Gama, Brazil); M Rubén Izquierdo (2/8: free/Charlton Athletic, England); M Eric Alexander (2/11: trade/Portland Timbers); M Jonny Steele (2/20: first right of refusal from Real Salt Lake); M Ian Christianson (2/22: SuperDraft, Georgetown University); M Michael Bustamante (2/22: Supplemental Draft, Boston University)
OUT: F Jose Angulo (11/19: option declined); F Jhonny Arteaga (11/19: option declined); F Corey Hertzog (11/19: option declined); M Jan Gunnar Solli (11/19: option declined); M Teemu Tainio (11/19: option declined); D Jonathan Borrajo (11/19: option declined); D Stephen Keel (11/19: option declined); D Tyler Ruthven (11/19: option declined); GK Bill Gaudette (11/19: option declined); GK Jeremy Vuolo (11/19: option declined); F Sébastien Le Toux (12/6: trade/Philadelphia Union); D Rafa Márquez (12/13: released); M Victor Palsson (1/4: contract terminated); M Joel Lindpere (1/4: trade/Chicago Fire); D Wilman Conde (1/23: contract terminated); F Kenny Cooper (2/4: trade/FC Dallas)
Star Attraction: Thierry Henry
Henry may be aging, but he is still the club’s most important player. Aside from being the captain and a Designated Player, the 35-year-old Frenchman is still capable of providing magic at any given moment and he demonstrated that last year with a number of highlight-reel goals. As Henry goes, the team goes.
Unsung Hero: Luis Robles
With Ryan Meara shelved for the season because of injury and Bill Gaudette beginning to struggle, the Red Bulls had a goalkeeper dilemma late in the season. In stepped Robles, who performed impressively for the club in his handful of appearances despite having not played in an official game in nearly a year. The 28-year-old is a steady presence between the pipes and he should help the Red Bulls concede fewer than the 46 goals they surrendered last season.
Ready for Primetime: Lloyd Sam
Whether he is a starter or not, Sam should see a load of minutes in 2013. He showed quality out wide last season after signing in the summer, but injuries limited his availability during the home stretch of the campaign. Sam’s abilities to take players on with pace and whip in crosses make him a valuable asset, and the Red Bulls will surely give him ample opportunity to further showcase his skills.
Jersey Week: Red Bulls get new lightweight primary kit in '13
Storylines to Watch
1. How will Petke fare in his first major coaching role? Petke has a wealth of experience with the Red Bulls organization as both a player and an assistant coach, but he has never been the man in charge of running the team. How the passionate Long Island native deals with the adversity and scrutiny that are sure to come his way – as well as how he handles in-game situations – will go a long way in determining whether he and the team are successful or not.
2. Who will fill Cooper’s big shoes? The Red Bulls disposed of their leading goalscorer late in the offseason, and now someone will need to replicate the offensive production he put up in 2012. Fabián Espíndola is the main candidate to do so, but trying to replace 18 goals will be a tough challenge.
3. Who will be the third DP? For the second straight year, the Red Bulls have an open Designated Player slot, and team officials have been vocal about wanting to use it this summer. Brazilian star Kaká has long been linked with the club, but the Red Bulls have demonstrated they can still make a surprise signing, as they did last year with the unexpected capture of Cahill.
What He Said
“Absolutely [I think this team can be a contender in 2013], but I’m a guy who believes in this organization so I might be way too optimistic than a normal person. I see this team doing great things in 2013.”
– New York head coach Mike Petke
If Everything Goes Right
The Red Bulls are facing a lot of turnover going into the season, but if they can manage to gel on the field and if Petke can smoothly adjust and learn on the job, New York should make the playoffs. From there, staying relatively healthy and avoiding the type of mental lapses that have plagued them in recent years would make them a serious contender to raise the MLS Cup.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com.