Fredrik Gulbrandsen was one of two Red Bulls’ acquisitions during the offseason and that was as a loan player. (Chris Schuler/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
In his legendary movie, Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, made this observation about relationships:
“A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”
Well, the same can be said about soccer and roster building.
If you don’t move forward then you team might not go anywhere and perhaps die in the standings. I have seen it happen before in the original North American Soccer League and in Major League Soccer.
You need to keep improving and tweaking the team in the offseason.
Which brings us to the Red Bulls, who, as it turns out, find themselves atop the Eastern Conference.
Beyond that, given the way they have gotten earned their results this season, you have to be concerned about the Red Bulls.
They have scored but four goals in as many games (2-1-1 mark), half of them as own-goal, game-winners.
There are questions whether their the two-forward system that head coach Jesse Marsch has implemented will work. Marsch said he is willing to be patient. After all, last year’s team started off with all the bad luck in the soccer world on its shoulders at 1-6 and it bounced back to win the conference.
Moreover, the Red Bulls did not act like a shark in the offseason, trying to upgrade their team by bringing in some new talent from the outside. Yes, forward Fredrik Gulbrandsen was added on loan from sister club Red Bull Salzburg. The jury is still out as he and Bradley Wright-Phillips continue to try to form an effective, working partnership.
And after Gulbrandsen, there’s Cameroon defender Hassan Ndam, an 18-year-old that could be a player for the future.
And after that, there’s … there’s … there’s …
Well, there’s nothing.
The Red Bulls, instead, went the domestic club route in bringing promoting young players from their Red Bulls II United Soccer League championship team to the first team and bigger roles.
Center back Aaron Long, Derrick Etienne, Jr. and Tyler Adams are prime examples.
Now, there is nothing wrong with growing and cultivating your promising young players, none whatsoever, especially if they deserve to play.
But you have to wonder if without any experienced additions will come back to haunt the side somewhere down the road.
Of course, the Red Bulls, like every team, have a second chance to save its season — if things go south — in the summer transfer window (which is one reason why I don’t go crazy over season previews because teams can change dramatically with one or two acquisition at the right time and right positions; please see Nicolas Lodeiro and the Seattle Sounders and what they accomplished over the second part of last season en route to the league championship).
Perhaps the Red Bulls will prove that adage wrong.
So, what type of shark will the Red Bulls be? A live one or a dead one?
Only time will tell.