The New York Red Bulls
Played well over in London town
Not so good over here
I hereby declare the New York Red Bulls to be the most enigmatic team in MLS. Since starting the season 5-2-7 and playing an attractive mix of possession and attacking soccer, the Red Bulls have nearly imploded, winning just once in their last ten games. In fact, having played exactly 2/3 of their games, New York now have exactly as many draws (12) as decisions. Of those decisions, half are wins and half are draws, so for the moment, they have the unlikely symmetry of an exactly average team.
The statement of the Red Bulls’ mediocrity flies in the face of all expectation. New York pays more for designated players than every other team, and one of them, Thierry Henry, leads the league in goals. Their center backs are two of the finest in MLS: US international Tim Ream and Mexico international Rafa Marquez. They recently traveled to London and won a European pre-season tournament by beating French side Paris St.-Germain and drawing against one of the top teams in the world: Arsenal. While it was pre-season for these teams, New York played well. Particularly against Arsenal, they were well organized in defense and opportunistic on offense.
So what’s up with New York back here in the good ol’ US of A? As I pointed out, the Red Bulls have strong forwards, speedy wingers, and strong center backs. However, goalkeeper and midfield have been problem spots. They recently traded midfielder Dwayne De Rosario to DC to make room to sign keeper Frank Rost. Since, they have only managed one win out of six games. It had been hoped at the beginning of the season that De Rosario would be able to complete the team by pulling the strings on the attack from the midfield. While at this point there is not enough data to make any definitive assessment, New York does not seem to be performing any differently with or without him. After leaving the Red Bulls, though, he’s averaging a goal a game with United.
With their recent problems, New York has dropped to 10th in The Power Rank. However, they’re in 3rd place in the East, which would see them into the playoffs. Certainly don’t count them out, but the De Rosario situation illustrates a lingering problem: the lack of a central midfielder who can possess and distribute the ball. De Rosario has always been more of an attacking midfielder, which wasn’t what they needed with their strong array of forwards and wingers. Until they can pick up a true #10, don’t expect them to be able to keep pace with the top sides in MLS.