2017 Red Bull New York Season Preview

On the heels of back-to-back Eastern Conference regular season titles and a Supporters’ Shield, Red Bull New York finds itself in an eerily familiar position this year; attempting to avenge a bitter playoff disappointment. For the second straight year, Jesse Marsch’s club followed a spectacular regular season with a dud in the pressure-packed postseason playoffs. What’s more, the organization went on to have another incredibly tumultuous offseason highlighted by an executive power struggle and the loss of their captain. As the sun rises on the 22nd season in club history, their goal remains to head into winter as MLS champions for the first time in history.

Last fall’s two-legged defeat to the Montreal Impact marked the end of a remarkable season for RBNY. After beginning 1-6 and enduring a seemingly endless parade of injuries, the club recovered to set a franchise record 16-match unbeaten streak, eventually earning the top-spot in the conference. However, another disappointing playoff loss signaled to the organization that a shakeup was necessary.

In a move that shocked the leagle, Dax McCarty, the captain and team’s unquestioned leader on and off the field, was sold to the Chicago Fire for $400,000. While fans took to social media to convey their disapproval, the transaction was particularly unsettling for the diminutive redhead who only hours earlier married the love of his life, right after being named to the U.S. Men’s National Team.

The sale of McCarty paves the way for talented youngster Sean Davis and Tyler Adams to take control of the midfield. However, for many of those around the team, the move sent the cold message that loyalty is not a priority at the club, especially after the unexpected firing of Mike Petke two winters ago.

Only days later that message was deepened when rumors about sporting director Ali Curtis’ job security sprung up around the draft. While Marsch was on an extended visit to Salzburg, Austria with ownership, Curtis was suddenly called back to New York; a move that sparked a monthlong period of unconfirmed reports and mixed messages from the club. Eventually, the sporting director, who presided over monumental success during his two seasons at the helm, and who hired Marsch as manager, was officially relieved of his duties. In the weeks since, rumors of a power struggle between Marsch and Curtis precipitated the firing.

Aside from those two drastic moves, much of the club remains intact. Chris Duvall, Ronald Zubar, and Omer Damari are the only players of note to leave the club. Fullback Michael Amir Murillo is, so far, the only addition to the roster. Aaron Long, last year’s USL Defender of The Year, made the jump to MLS and is projected to start alongside veteran Aurelien Collin.

The Red Bulls are hoping a combination of roster familiarity, bolstered by youthful contributions, will lead them to their goal. Unfortunately, their 2017 got off to an inauspicious start when they were eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League by the Vancouver Whitecaps. Almost as disappointing, Gonzalo Veron, who has underwhelmed in his first season-and-a-half at the club, may have suffered yet another lengthy injury in the tournament. It appears as though the Red Bulls will, once again, need to overcome early season adversity on their path to success.