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 1 here.
2012 record: 16-9-9 (57 points); 57 GF / 46 GA (+11 GD)
Depth Chart: 1. Luis Robles, 2. Ryan Meara, 3. Santiago Castano
Strengths: The Red Bulls have two very solid players capable of starting. Robles and Meara both proved their quality last season and if Meara had been at full health this preseason, the Red Bulls would have had an intense battle for the starting spot between the pipes. As things stand, Robles is currently in the driver’s seat.
Weaknesses: With Meara still not fully fit after hip surgery that ended his promising 2012 season, there is a lack of depth behind Robles. Castano is the other goalkeeper on the roster, but he is a 17-year-old who is still adjusting to the pro game after signing a Homegrown deal in December.
Wild Card: Meara’s health is still a big question mark and how soon he can return will determine what the Red Bulls do with the position. If Meara can resume full training soon, New York will stand pat with what they have now. If not, the Red Bulls will likely be forced to sign a free agent veteran goalkeeper.
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Kosuke Kimura, 2. Brandon Barklage; CB: 1. Jámison Olave – Heath Pearce, 2. Markus Holgersson, 3. Digão; LB: 1. Roy Miller, 2. Connor Lade
Strengths: There is plenty of talent in the starting back four and impressive depth behind them. Several of the backups could be starters and many were last season, so the Red Bulls have plenty to smile about in terms of the quality they have in defense.
Weaknesses: As is the case with other areas of the team, the backline is undergoing a number of changes from last year and they lack experience together. The preseason has shown that the Red Bulls are still frail defensively and the starters learning to play with one another will likely continue to be a work in progress throughout the season.
Wild Card: Miller is the projected starter at left back and how he fares in head coach Mike Petke’s new system is a big question mark. Miller has shown promise in the attack this preseason, but he has also made the type of defensive blunders that led to his benching in the past.
Depth Chart: RCM: 1. Tim Cahill, 2. Jonny Steele; LCM: 1. Juninho, 2. Rubén Bover Izquierdo; CDM: 1. Dax McCarty, 2. Eric Alexander
Strengths: With Cahill, Juninho and McCarty, the Red Bulls have one of the most talented and experienced starting midfields in the league. The trio offers plenty of attacking power and the defensive bite Petke wants, and Juninho brings the type of creativity and set-piece delivery that the Red Bulls have lacked in recent years.
Weaknesses: Aside from Alexander, the Red Bulls lack proven depth in midfield. Steele got a taste of MLS last year with Real Salt Lake but he only has 28 games to his name, while Izquierdo, Christianson and Bustamente are all youngsters who have shown potential but are yet to play a single minute in this league.
Wild Card: Juninho is entering his first season in MLS, and while there is no question he still has talent, questions remain about his durability in a physical league. Should the 38-year-old stay healthy for most of the year, the Red Bulls might have the No. 10 attacking player they have long searched for.
Depth Chart: RF: 1. Fabián Espíndola, 2. Lloyd Sam, 3. Amando Moreno; CF: 1. Thierry Henry, 2. Fabián Espíndola; LF: 1. Rubén Bover Izquierdo, 2. Fabián Espíndola, 3. Josué Martínez
Strengths: Henry is still playing at a high level and is the type of player opposing teams have to gameplan around. In 2012, Henry scored 15 goals and had 12 assists and while he did battle injuries, he still looked as good as he has since joining the Red Bulls in 2010.
Weaknesses: After Henry and Espíndola, the Red Bulls are missing a forward who is capable of carrying the burden of the attack in a central role. Moreno looks to have a bit of skill, but he is a teenager who will need to be brought along slowly.
Wild Card: Espíndola was brought in for his goal-scoring ways and ability to pass the ball. Just how quickly he adjusts to his new surroundings and teammates could determine if the Red Bulls are as good offensively as they were last year, when they netted an Eastern Conference-high 57 goals.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com.