The New York Red Bulls have identified what they would like to accomplish going into the 2014 season. Landing an attacking midfielder is high on the list.
For what seems like the umpteenth year in a row, the Red Bulls head into the offseason with the capture of a creative player -- one capable of unlocking defenses and setting up teammates -- as one of their top priorities. New York have tried to find such a player in recent years, only to come up short time and again due to varying reasons.
That, however, is not enough to discourage head coach Mike Petke from looking for that type of player in his first full winter in charge of the club.
“First and foremost, we need a creative-type player, whether it be an attacking midfielder or just someone that can play in the midfield,” said Petke during his final media conference call of 2013 on Wednesday. “We need someone who can thread those passes, and we have guys that are capable and hard workers, but we don’t have that true attacking, link-up type of player. Obviously, we’ll be looking for that.”
The Red Bulls were the highest-scoring team in MLS in 2013, but they lacked a dynamic attacker capable of feeding the likes of Thierry Henry (pictured at right) and shoulder some of the offensive load. To acquire someone like that, New York aren't opposed to using their unoccupied third Designated Player slot.
“The conversations we’ve had is that Red Bull [leadership] in Austria is not against at all a third Designated Player, but it has to be the right person, right personality, right mentality,” said Petke. “What I’ve gotten from that is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the big-time players that you read about in the press all the time from Europe. I don’t want to name names, but you know who I’m talking about, the big EPL names.
“My point, at the end of the day, is that age doesn’t necessarily matter and also status doesn’t necessarily matter as far as 'big-time player,'” added Petke. “[Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier] Morales turned out to be one of the best players [when he signed] in the league, a guy like [David] Ferreira in Dallas was arguably the best player that year he came into the league. These are guys no one ever heard of, no one ever saw and they became arguably some of the best.”
Along with adding a creative player, Petke is hopeful of landing more dynamic wide players capable of getting “up and down on the flanks.” His wish list also includes signing fullbacks who can jump into the attack consistently.
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That said, Petke doesn't believe major changes are needed. He thinks it will take just a few tweaks to fine-tune the Red Bulls roster into a more legitimate championship contender.
“We’re obviously combing the planet for certain players, but we don’t want a big overhaul,” said Petke. “We definitely need to get some new blood in certain areas and see if anything is available. [But] we ended the season as regular-season champions, so obviously the players that we have are good and we did something right, the players did things right.
“We don’t really feel it’s necessary to overhaul and I think that’s one thing in the past at certain times that has plagued this organization, whether it be Red Bulls or MetroStars, over 18 years. And it’s not necessary.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.