MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Three big questions following New York Red Bulls' 2022 season


The 2022 MLS campaign has long been over and the unforgiving nature of the single-elimination Audi MLS Cup Playoffs sends another six clubs to the offseason after Round One, joining 14 clubs that missed the postseason.

Here, we'll be covering three questions for every team moving forward. Think of it as an exit interview, if you will. Matt Doyle, as always, has you covered on his preeminent season-in-review for each club (New York version). Read that, too.

He has gifs. It’s tough to beat gifs.

The big picture

The New York Red Bulls pushed their playoff streak to 13 years, a great achievement of consistency and one that tied the league record thanks to Seattle Sounders FC missing out in 2022. The club also continued their frustrating playoff history with another early exit, losing in Round One at home to FC Cincinnati.

RBNY have a few big names with contract uncertainty, young players who seem ready for the next step and big questions in attack.

Will Aaron Long be back?

Club captain and former MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long is out of contract following the season. He could be the latest high-profile Red Bull to leave for free (Sean Davis, Kyle Duncan and Kaku, to name a few in recent memory).

Talks for a new contract didn’t get anywhere over the winter, and then the Red Bulls rejected significant trade offers (somewhere between $1.2 million and $2 million General Allocation Money) ahead of the season. Long will be a sought-after free agent, both around MLS and maybe even abroad. While he has become a polarizing figure with the USMNT of late with disappointing performances, he’s still an in-prime, proven MLS center back.

Long’s age (just turned 30 this week) doesn’t make him necessarily old, but that’s borderline ancient for RBNY. He is the only player on the team over 26 that played more than 1,100 minutes. Time and time again, RBNY have pushed the chips on going younger. Given his contract situation and the Red Bulls’ ethos, maybe they don’t have him in their plans. Either way, it’s looking more likely that Long could leave.

Sean Nealis had another strong year in central defense for the Red Bulls. Andres Reyes wasn’t cheap, so he’ll figure as a likely starter if Long does leave. The club also traded up to select Matthew Nocita No. 7 overall in the SuperDraft last year.

What about rising talents Tolkin, Casseres and others?

A big part of the Red Bulls' philosophy is selling players on. It’s the conclusion of the "buy young → develop → move on" model. Cristian Casseres Jr. (turning 23 in January) and John Tolkin (turned 20 in July) seem to be ready for that stage of the cycle.

The Red Bulls rejected a few transfer offers for Casseres this summer, per a source, that culminated with a $3 million plus sell-on percentage bid being rebuffed. I’d expect more offers to come this winter. He’s been at the club since 2018 and become a regular with Venezuela’s national team while making 99 regular-season appearances with RBNY. He’s a really important piece to this squad.

So is Tolkin and, after a second strong season as the first-choice starter at left back, he looks ready for Europe. Tolkin did just sign a new contract, though. Whether that was to give RBNY better leverage in transfer talks or signals that he’ll be here for one more year (or more), well, we’ll see this winter.

RBNY reportedly rejected advances from England for leading scorer Lewis Morgan (14g/4a) as well, while midfielder Frankie Amaya has been transparent about his hope to play in Europe one day.

Can they find elite attacking talent?

The New York Red Bulls went into 2022 with a really strong foundation and the potential to grow.

Carlos Coronel was back after being one of the league’s best goalkeepers in 2021, while Long returned from injury. Add in another year of development for Tolkin and Casseres, and maybe a Gass Theorem-style step forward for Patryk Klimala, who arrived from Celtic on a transfer fee of around $4.5 million in 2021. Morgan arrived in a then-league-record trade this winter from Inter Miami. Luquinhas was signed from the Polish top flight to be another attacking DP.

The Red Bulls needed one of Luquinhas/Klimala/Morgan to become an elite attacker. For a little while, it looked like Luquinhas would be that guy, but then he went ice cold and finished the year with 0g/1a over his final 16 appearances. Klimala was benched and scored one time after May. Morgan was the closest thing, though his tally of 14 goals was buoyed by six penalties. Morgan did his part by scoring in the Round One playoff loss to FC Cincinnati, but the club couldn’t hang onto the lead.

Next year, if Klimala doesn’t return, they’ll have a DP spot to potentially use in the attack once more. If he does come back, perhaps they’ll have a solid foundation of GAM to make a significant move.

Depth chart as of Oct. 17
RBNY year-end depth chart - Bogert
A couple more thoughts:
  • Daniel Edelman’s first MLS season was really good. The USYNT midfielder is a big talent.
  • Will Elias Manoel return? RBNY have a purchase option for the on-loan Brazilian striker from Gremio.
  • What about Kyle Duncan? He was on loan from Belgium’s KV Oostende through the end of the season.
  • What is the succession plan at left back if Tolkin leaves?