It will be a short offseason for the New York Red Bulls. The twice-defending Eastern Conference champions will resume CONCACAF Champions League play in February prior to the start of the MLS regular season in early March. Between now and then, the Red Bulls will have some work to do, however.
How to make better a team that won the Supporters Shield two years ago and has made the playoffs every season since moving into dazzling Red Bull Arena in 2010? Three things to watch from the Red Bulls heading into a busy offseason:
1. A central midfielder gets moved
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An injury to Dax McCarty midway through the season allowed playing time for young Sean Davis, who showed that he is ready to start in MLS. With a possible move to a 4-2-2-2 this season, the Red Bulls suddenly have four starting quality center midfielders and have a fifth in Tyler Adams who is developing; it might just be too much to keep. Sacha Kljestan was an MVP candidate last year and won’t be moved so it will be interesting to see who the Red Bulls retain. McCarty, steady as they come, is set for a national team call-up this January, a well-deserved nod for his play over the past three seasons. Davis is young and a good value under the salary cap and Felipe is an ideal fit in this system. But some team is going to see the glut of talent here and offer a trade, something that could land the Red Bulls some allocation money. The Red Bulls might not want to move someone but if they want to add another attacker and some defensive depth, they might have to.
2. The DP dilemma
Gonzalo Veron came to the Red Bulls late in the 2015 season from Argentina, the designated player looking at the time like a great fit for the team. But through last season, Veron hasn’t gelled with the team and lost his starting place by the summer to rookie Alex Muyl. Veron might hold some value for a team looking for a winger and his designated player contract is one the Red Bulls might want to move to shore up some other positions of need. If the Red Bulls get any reasonable offer then Veron might be on the move.
3. That backline
In all likelihood, the Red Bulls will need to add two defenders this offseason, especially with Champions League play and competitions such as the U.S. Open Cup. Aurelien Collin, acquired midway through the season in a trade, is out of contract but sources say that the team is aggressively trying to make a new deal possible. Regardless, Red Bull will need to add one more centerback as well as a right back to compete with Sal Zizzo. Both players need to be starting quality.