November 21, 2012
MY TWO CENTS
Red Bulls' new regime must shake off ghosts of years past
Matt Levine is a member of the BigAppleSoccer.com staff.
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
By Matt Levine
When the Red Bulls crashed out of the playoffs against D.C United, it was an all too familiar feeling for the players and the fans. It was another season where the Red Bulls on paper were primed for a deep playoff run, but failed to live up to expectations.
Thierry Henry, the face of the franchise, at times last season looked as frustrated as some supporters, especially with the Red Bulls' struggling form towards the end of the season. Henry no doubt came to New York to lift the franchiseís first trophy and one must agree he has lived up to the billing of a designated player.
The two other DPs will be instrumental to Red Bullsí success next season.
Tim Cahill, whose impact may go unnoticed, will only be better next season when he links back up with the squad and has his first pre-season as a Red Bulls player. His composure on the ball, his hard-working attitude and aerial ability will be crucial in helping Red Bulls win an MLS Cup.
The other DP, Rafa Marquez, may just help the club even more with his absence. His spell in New York has been nothing short of a disaster and not only has his performance been underwhelming for a player of his pedigree, but he seems to also not be the greatest locker room guy. Although Marquez may be tough to move due to his high wages, if they canít find a suitor, the Red Bulls are the only MLS teams that can afford to eat the salary. Obviously paying a player to not play isnít ideal, but cutting him loose and bringing in a more productive DP, it certainly is an avenue the new regime may look to.
When the Red Bulls announced the departure of former general manager and sporting director Erik Soler before the season was finished, it did seem a strange move. Although Soler may not have always made the right moves, he seemed to be learning from his mistakes. He assembled one of the deepest teams the Red Bulls may have had. Unfortunately, it wasnít good enough to keep his job. Bringing in players like Sebastien Le Toux, who really didnít pan out, did not help his cause. However, a lot of the blame has to fall on the shoulders of former coach Hans Backe.
Backe never seemed to stick to the same lineup even when the Red Bulls were playing well. He also attempted to play players out of position, such as Le Toux playing at wing. Backe, although he did find success at times, he wasnít the man to lead this team to the title. Even at home in the loss to D.C United, Backe could have possibly played a more attacking lineup.
New sporting director Andy Roxburgh and GM Jerome de Bontin do have some work to do to get the Red Bulls over the hump. They first need to find the right coach. With that search ongoing, it is easier to evaluate what they need to do with the current squad.
The new backroom staff can either go in one of two directions that are seen when the direction of a club changes hands. The Red Bulls can either try to start from scratch and build through youth, building on players like the impressive rookie Connor Lade or go for the win now approach.
Although at times building through youth is the right option, but not in this case. The spine of this team is very experienced and should have been deep enough to challenge this year. However, the Red Bulls need some help in key areas. They could really use a winger as the Red Bulls missed the pace of Dane Richards at times. Lloyd Sam showed flashes of similar ability, but missed out on the playoffs with a knee injury. An explosive and winger with pace could really go a long way in unlocking defenses, which at times the Red Bulls failed to accomplish.
With the combination of Henry and Kenny Cooper, the Red Bulls are pretty solid up top. They could use a third striker that could provide a spark and goals off the bench. The Red Bulls could look to someone in-house or look for an option, one that should have experience putting balls in the back of the net in MLS.
The other position I see the Red Bulls need is in the back. They could use another outside back with Roy Miller stagnating and Jan Gunnar Solli not having his option picked up.
Of course, any player that is brought in must fit the new coachís system, which is why it is imperative to hire someone soon and let him work in tandem with Roxburgh and de Bontin to build a squad that is capable of challenging for victories, especially in the playoffs.
The staff and whoever the new coach is need to shake off the disappointment the franchise has seen since its inception. For far too long, the Red Bulls (MetroStars) have promised so much, only to fall short of the mark. With another failure in the forefront of fans' and players' minds, now is the time for the new staff to make a positive impact. It needs to shake off the ghosts of seasons' past and move the team forward rather than feeling like watching a re-run of an old episode of New Yorkís failure to succeed.
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