Chris Brandon Whitaker is a Red Bulls fan who lives in Kingston, N.Y.
by Chris Brandon Whitaker
Special to the website
The Red Bulls have several spots to fill on the roster for the 2017 season and, familiarly enough, the areas of greatest need are the same as last year. Here’s a list of three New Year’s Resolutions that NYRB must commit to fulfilling in the coming year.
New center backs
With only Gideon Baah on the current roster, the Red Bulls need at least three more center backs. Hopefully, Aurelien Collin can hammer out a deal with the front office, as he was largely responsible for transforming the backline into a contending defensive unit upon his arrival last May.
Ronald Zubar and Damien Perrinelle were released at the end of 2016, probably because they proved themselves to be too old, slow and injury-prone. Given their current salary demands, it seems unlikely they will be brought back for 2017.
A third center back needed for depth on the bench is waiting in the wings with Red Bulls II: Aaron Long. Winner of the 2016 USL defender of the year, Long is ready to make the move to the first team.
Even with Collin and Long signed, the team still desperately needs another quality center back, because Collin is on the wrong side of 30, Baah has been injury-prone his entire career and Long is only a rookie.
New right back
With the loss of Chris Duvall to Minnesota United and subsequently to the Montreal Impact, the Red Bulls are in dire need of a good right back. Speaking plainly, the 2016 tandem of Duvall and Sal Zizzo was the weakest link in the lineup. Zizzo isn’t a natural defender and never rose to the challenge of his conversion from left midfielder.
Next on the depth chart is Connor Lade, who has the heart of a lion, but the skill of journeyman. He simply isn’t starting quality in today’s Major League Soccer. He best serves the team as depth on the bench and as an example of good work ethic on the training ground.
Given the formation and tactics preferred by head coach Jesse Marsh, the team clearly needs a two-way right back who can deliver dependable service into the box as well as strong defense on the wings.
Bradley Wright-Phillips is a gem as winner of two Golden Boots. However, like all strikers, he blows hot and cold, and when he’s off his game, there is no one to relieve him. The Red Bulls were extremely lucky that BWP managed to stay healthy for the most part of 2015 and 2016, but rolling the dice a third time would be foolhardy.
Winger Gonzalo Veron was supposed to be the relief for BWP, but there’s no denying he hasn’t developed as expected. In fact, he’ll be lucky to wrest much playing time from fellow right winger Alex Muyl and should focus on becoming a starter in that position.
Next on the depth chart is Brandon Allen, who performed well on the Red Bulls’ II last year and was named USL rookie of the year. However, with the current Red Bulls’ roster aging and having only one more year to seriously contend for MLS Cup, it would be utter capitulation to hand over the super sub goal scoring duties to a rookie for the 2017 push to win the Cup.