The Emergence Of Sean Davis Gives Red Bulls Flexibility

USA Today
[Disclaimer: Extremely small sample size]

In the two league matches that Red Bull New York midfielder Sean Davis has started in absence of injured captain Dax McCarty, the squad has risen above a scoring inconsistency problem that had plagued them all season long. In those matches, Davis has provided his first two MLS goals and added two more assists, contributing to four of New York’s five goals during those games. His smooth transition to playmaker has significantly cushioned the McCarty injury blow, and provides coach Jesse Marsch and sporting director Ali Curtis with significantly more roster flexibility.

It was just last winter that rumors swirled of the Red Bulls looking to trade away McCarty, who is the heart and soul of the squad. He had one year remaining on his contract, and the prevailing thought was that he’d cost too much to re-sign. Eventually both he and the organization agreed to keep him wearing red and white for four more seasons. However, one of the main reasons they were willing to depart with his services was that they had Davis waiting in the wings.

At only 23-years-old, the Duke standout has cemented his spot as one of the most anticipated young players in MLS. During his college years, Davis captained the Blue Devils twice, and collected numerous accolades and hardware for his playmaking abilities. The Red Bulls didn’t hesitate to sign him as a Homegrown Player prior to the 2015 season. After making his MLS debut, he appeared in 14 matches last year, four of which he started.

This year, the New Jersey-native has eclipsed all his statistics from last season. In 15 games, six of which he’s started, Davis has scored two goals and assisted on six more in 666 total minutes. Though New York is squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, sitting in third place, coach Marsh and sporting director Curtis always have an eye on the future, and Davis is expanding their horizons.

Throughout most of the last two seasons, McCarty and Felipe have entrenched themselves in the defensive midfielder roles. They’ve worked seamlessly together to close down opponents’ passing lanes, control ball possession, and find teammates making offensive runs. Now, when McCarty returns, Davis allows Marsch to utilize Felipe in a more offensive-oriented role, something he’s occasionally done with success this year.

Looking even further than McCarty’s return, Ali Curtis has the ability to address weaker areas of his squad during the winter. Suddenly, both Felipe’s $250,000 contract and McCarty’s $400,000 deal can be replaced by Davis’ $90,000 commitment. The Red Bulls are not a free spending team, and can use those cost savings to lure a higher-priced striker or winger during the transfer period, or they can be used to help re-sign $500,000 defender Aurelien Collin.

Regardless of what happens going forward, New Yorkers should be extremely excited to watch Davis grow and mature as a player. For the next month-and-a-half, he will continue to be a key cog in the Red Bulls’ system. Based on the way he’s been playing, Jesse Marsch can’t take him out of the lineup, even when McCarty returns.