Feb 27, 2013, 9:02 AM EST
Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. First kick is March 2.
No. 3 in the East is the New York Red Bulls:
Significant additions and subtractions: In a trade with Real Salt Lake the Red Bulls got a reliable, hard-working scorer in Fabian Espindola and one of the league’s elite center backs in Jamison Olave. The club also added Brazilian veteran Juninho to boost the attack. (There are lots of Brazilian Juninhos out there; this is the Red Bulls’ Juninho.)
The most newsworthy change is Rafa Marquez’s departure; if anything goes wrong this year, we can no longer blame the former Mexican international. (And that was typically the first stop along the blame train.)
Also moving out of Red Bull Arena is Sebastian Le Toux, who is back in the venue of his best success, Philadelphia. And Kenny Cooper was traded to Dallas, taking his team-leading 18 goals with him. The team also purged a few mid- to high-salaried veterans, like Jan Gunnar Solli and Teemu Tainio.
Strengths: No MLS roster looks more promising; back to front the Red Bulls have talent and options. Guiding them is now Mike Petke’s job, and the players seem to have connected with the longtime club figure – Petke was a former Red Bulls player and then assistant coach – in a way they never did with Hans Backe, who was fired last fall after three seasons in charge.
Petke hopes to get the best of his talented collection of attackers through a loosely structured attack, where interchange is encouraged in what he says will sometimes look like a 4-4-2, other times a 4-1-3-2, a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3.
Goalkeeper Ryan Meara, moving toward a possible Rookie of the Year honor last year before a late summer injury, and Luis Robles give Petke two terrific choices in goal. And speaking of choices, Heath Pearce is in the league’s top half of center backs, but probably top five in left backs. That kind of flexibility can only help as Petke builds the match-day lineups.
The central midfield will involve some ordering of Dax McCarty (rewarded with a new contract for that fantastic 2012 campaign), longtime EPL veteran Tim Cahill, Juninho and Thierry Henry.
Pressure points: The club has never won a major trophy, a fairly noticeable black eye for the team representing Major League Soccer’s largest media market. As “pressure points” go, that’s a pretty substantial one, and an ongoing issue around Red Bull Arena. No one is more aware than Petke, a fan favorite in his playing days and the club’s all-time leader in appearance with 169 in league matches.
The trick with Olave is keeping him healthy enough that he justifies that relatively high salary for an MLS center back; Olave has averaged about 24 starts over the last five years, and he never quite looked the same after a hamstring injury last summer.
Henry has plenty of talent around him to provide some relief here and there, and he’ll certainly need it. (Plus, Henry doesn’t like playing on artificial turf.)
Difference maker: Henry turns 36 in August, but he still looks up for the job. The former French international (and league’s highest-paid player) supplied 15 goals and 12 assists last year, which are league MVP-worthy numbers. Plus, he never seemed to click between the white lines with Cooper, so the on-field chemistry with fellow attackers will presumably improve in 2013.
We can be 100 percent sure that Henry can still manufacture some very special moments; some of his goals over the last two years have been absolute beauties.
Potential breakout player: The club has three starting-quality left backs in Pearce, Roy Miller and Conor Lade. So we’ll see how much Lade can get on the field. Sooner or later, the talented, hard-working left back will get the chance to show why a player like Henry spent so much time talking him up last year.
Bottom line: There is a lot of pressure on Petke, 37, to find his feet quickly in this, his first professional head coaching assignment. Assuming he keeps the Red Bulls bus properly in lane, there is zero reason to believe they cannot challenge for the Eastern Conference crown. The roster is well-constructed throughout and blessed with difference makers at the top, even if a couple of them tend to be on the brittle side.
Dec 6, 2013, 2:10 PM EST
At first blush — and by FIFA rankings — three groups look tougher than the rest.
Dec 6, 2013, 1:59 PM EST
The draw for the 2014 World Cup took place in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia today. The draw is the first major event of the tournament and it is in this instance where a lot of things are decided. The long path to winning the World Cup starts here, as the draw sets the difficulty bar for each…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:38 PM EST
The day wasn’t about “dread” for the man known as Deuce, it was about “excitement,” he says:
Dec 6, 2013, 1:28 PM EST
Klinsmann’s side face his home nation Germany, Ronaldo’s Portugal and old foes Ghana in Group G:
Dec 6, 2013, 1:13 PM EST
Here’s a trio of headlines guaranteed to turn the world’s eyes come June.
Dec 6, 2013, 12:47 PM EST
Those tough friendlies are about to pay off, according to the U.S. center back:
Dec 6, 2013, 12:45 PM EST
Full list of all the group games, kick off times, venues and more:
Dec 6, 2013, 10:55 AM EST
Everything you need to know about the 2014 World Cup Draw, with live updates as they happen.
Dec 6, 2013, 10:50 AM EST
Will the Saints bounce back? Or can City keep on a roll? Watch live on NBCSN, Saturday 10am ET:
Dec 6, 2013, 10:34 AM EST
The late Nelson Mandela, who passed away Thursday at age 95, will be honored at all nine Premier League matches on Saturday with a minute of applause. The applause for Mandela, a fan of the sport who was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to South Africa, will also be heard at Championship and FA…
Dec 6, 2013, 9:49 AM EST
Newcastle will look to follow Everton’s lead in ending decades of frustration at Old Trafford, with both the Magpies and Manchester United coming off recently-rare losses.
Dec 6, 2013, 8:41 AM EST
David Moyes denies using an expletive to describe his Old Trafford booing by Everton supporters, while plenty are weighing in on his performance.
Dec 6, 2013, 8:14 AM EST
Why Liverpool should break the bank to keep Suarez at Anfield:
Dec 6, 2013, 7:35 AM EST
Can you name the now seven keepers to win Premier League monthly honors as top player? Hints: Tim Krul of Newcastle just became No. 7, and one man won it with two teams.
Dec 6, 2013, 7:16 AM EST
With Fulham grinding for their Premier League lives, can Dimitar Berbatov help guide the Craven Cottage faithful to safer waters, or is he not the type of player suited for a relegation battle?
Dec 6, 2013, 3:27 AM EST
How does the 2012 Goalkeeper of the Year compare to this year’s runner up?
Dec 6, 2013, 12:12 AM EST
The Everton defender backs David Moyes to have long-term success at Manchester United. So much so, that it almost seems like he wishes his old boss had brought him along to Old Trafford…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:10 PM EST
Despite the fact that the 49-year-old manager gives no care to who the United States get drawn against, he does have a preference for another draw…their location.
Dec 5, 2013, 9:27 PM EST
We will also look at the midfields, the forward groups and the goalkeepers
Dec 5, 2013, 9:27 PM EST
From the season opening win in San Jose to the turnaround against LA and their final wins over Portland, we talk about RSL’s 2013.
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