Last season, the New York Red Bulls relied upon their academy products and a strong veteran core to lead them to the Supporters' Shield.
Don't expect that game plan to change in 2016.
While most MLS teams have spent the offseason on the hunt for veteran talent to improve their ranks, the Red Bulls have cultivated their academy program to the tune of seven new Homegrown Player signings. Meanwhile, they have either restructured or extended contracts to nearly a dozen veteran standouts on the team, rewarding them for a battle well fought in 2015.
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"That was the emphasis coming out of last year," head coach Jesse Marsch said. "You have to credit [sporting director] Ali Curtis and all the work he did. I don't know the number of re-signed or restructured players, but it is in the high teens.
"We've worked hard to honor the years these players have had and honor the group and keep it assembled as much as possible. I think we have accomplished a lot of that, and in there we've injected a lot of young players."
One of those young players is Georgetown product Brandon Allen, a first team all-America selection and the school's all-time leading scorer. Projected as a high first-round pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, Allen was convinced to join the Red Bulls as a Homegrown Player, keeping the standout Jersey talent in his home state.
"Honestly, they just made me feel comfortable," Allen said. "They talked about the Homegrowns and how they are bringing up a lot of the academy kids, so I think that was a major part of my decision."
The Red Bulls might be getting younger, but that makes the veterans on the team all the more important. At just 30 years old, Bradley Wright-Phillips is one of the elder statesmen on this youthful side, and he, like the other leaders on the club, continues to embrace and believe in the club's youth movement.
"We don't care what [other teams] do. It doesn't matter," said Wright-Phillips. "I've been on teams with good players and still lost games. If [veteran] players go to those teams and give their full 100 percent, then it could be a good thing. But with us, we know what we are doing.
“We are a young squad. We play high-pressure football. If anyone wants to come here, a big star, and they don't want to buy into that, it kills us. So I am happy with what we got."