>Thursday Lunch Special: MLS Team Preview – New York Red Bulls

Posted: March 10, 2011 in mls
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

>By Evan Ream, with help from the Intern

Last Year: 15-9-6 51 points, 1st in East, 3rd overall. Lost to San Jose 3-2 on aggregate in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Key Losses: Juan Pablo Angel, Luke Sassano, Mike Petke, Jeremy Hall
Key Additions: Corey Hertzog, John Rooney, Jan Gunnar Solli, Luke Rodgers
Projected Starting XI: There shouldn’t really be any surprises in the Starting XI for Hans Backe’s side this year. Up top, Thierry Henry is obviously a lock to start despite having a disappointing season last year. He should partner Juan Agudelo, the player many are labeling as “the future” of US Soccer. This should be as dynamic as any partnership in MLS as both players are strong, fast, good in the air, and can use either foot. In the midfield, Jan Gunnar Solli, a new acquisition and experienced Norwegian player has been getting looks on the left side in preseason. Though he is somewhat of a question mark, look for him to start. In the middle, Joel Lindpere and Tony Tchani should form a solid partnership with Joel Lindpere being the slightly more attacking of the two. Dane Richards, one of the best players in the second half of last season, should start on the right side. The backline looks similar to last year, but Rafael Marquez should slide into his natural center back spot instead of Carlos Mendes. Roy Miller, a talented but error prone Costa Rican should start at left back with the impressive Tim Ream by his side. Though he is injured at the moment, Chris Albright, once healthy, should fill in at the right back spot. Lastly, Bouna Coundoul is the unquestioned starter in goal. Hans Backe may want to play a 4-5-1 in some games, if he does, look for Agudelo to take a seat on the bench with Mehdi Ballouchy coming in to play in an attacking midfield role. Luke Rodgers and Corey Hertzog should get some starts for this team while Agudelo is representing the USMNT at the Under-20 World Cup (and maybe even the CONCACAF Gold Cup as well).

Thierry Henry          Juan Agudelo
Jan Gunnar Solli          Joel Lindpere          Tony Tchani          Dane Richards
Roy Miller          Tim Ream          Rafael Marquez          Chris Albright
Bouna Coundoul

Prognosis: This team is built to win trophies; if they fail to win one it will be a disappointment. I think the key player to this team could be Dane Richards. Richards was nothing short of stellar after Thierry Henry arrived. He has always had the speed, but for some reason with Henry he was able to finally improve on his decision making and ball control to benefit the team, scoring five goals, all after Henry arrived. If Thierry Henry is healthy the entire season, he should be a threat to score 15+ goals, taking much of the pressure off the young Agudelo to do his thing. Tony Tchani should improve on his excellent rookie season by becoming a sure starter and perhaps the next Shalrie Joseph. The defense should be incredibly solid as well. The Ream-Marquez partnership will rival Jamison Olave-Nat Borchers for the best in the league. Overall, this team shouldn’t lose many games. They are one of the most balanced team in the league. If they have any weakness, it would have to be at keeper where Bouna Coundoul will win you as many games with his athleticism as he will lose you with his mental lapses. This team is putting an emphasis on the Supporter’s Shield, so expect a top three finish with maybe lesser results in the other competitions.
The Intern’s Take: USMNT fans should be excited to watch this team, as it looks as if Juan Agudelo will be getting plenty of starts and have the opportunity to learn from the legendary Thierry Henry. Agudelo was probably the best player on the field for the Red Bulls in their loss to San Jose in the playoffs last year and he practically created Angel’s goal on his own (with some help from Bobby Convey’s defense). Ever since his off the bar finish against South Africa, USMNT fans have been salivating over the potential he has and this will be their first real chance to see him play substantial minutes for a full season. One of the most important players on this team will be Joel Lindpere, who finished last season with three goals and led the Red Bulls in assists with six while only missing one game the entire season. He was the also the one that assisted Henry’s first ever goal with New York after making a great move to get past his defender and finding Henry in the box during the New York Challenge last summer. Unless New York have some major catastrophe this season, there is no reason they should not clinch the first seed in the Eastern Conference. This team’s starting eleven looks to be one of the strongest this year, but their depth is questionable and if injuries/suspensions occur with any regularity, New York may find that the drop off in talent between their starters and their bench could be quite a problem in their quest for the Supporter’s Shield.


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