Libraries. Silent movies. Sneaking to the fridge for a late night snack. All of these things, particularly the last one, make more noise than the New York Red Bulls since exiting the MLS Playoffs back in November with a loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
While it's flattering to have so many rumors swirling around New York players departing on loan or permanent transfers, not much has been coming out of Harrison on incoming players except for a recent find in a Swedish newspaper on a possible new central defender. The Red Bulls completely cleaned house after the MLS re-entry draft and since then have only officially announced the signing of a single homegrown player, defender Connor Lade, bringing their listed roster to a grand total of twenty players (out of a possible thirty). So here at Once a Metro, we took a closer look around the league to see how the Red Bulls measure up to other clubs in terms of their roster spots left to fill.
Only three teams have fewer active players on their roster - the New England Revolution, DC United, and, a bit surprisingly, the Houston Dynamo. In fact, looking at playoff teams from last season, the current average roster size is 26 players (not counting New York). Even non-playoff teams are averaging 23 players. With preseason training beginning in the next couple of weeks and the MLS SuperDraft approaching, there isn't much time to fill out the roster, especially considering New York's lack of draft picks.
Also, of the players listed on the Red Bulls active roster, it's not certain that all will be with the team when they open their 2012 season. Outgoing transfer and loan rumors have particularly focused on Tim Ream, Rafa Marquez, and Joel Lindpere. Thierry Henry is already en route to Arsenal for a two-month loan, but judging from the Galaxy's experience with David Beckham, loan demands by marquee Designated Players can turn detrimental faster than you can spell "Achilles." Additional roster questions can be added via Frank Rost, Brian Nielsen, and Carl Robinson.
For a team that struggled in 2011 and didn't even field a competitive team for the U.S. Open Cup due to a lack of depth, the current roster status is either a brilliant rebuilding of the New York bench or a terrifying lack of regard for the need of talented players outside of the starting eleven. To Erik Soler and Hans Backe's credit, their strength has been bringing in affordable players during the January transfer window who have made a tremendous impact (Lindpere, Solli, Tainio, and Rodgers to name a few). And aside from the aforementioned pending signing of Markus Holgersson, it's likely that New York could have a few more announcements in the works, including two mysterious young American players with international experience.
New York's goal in 2012 is to win MLS Cup. To do so requires a strong starting eleven along with bench and reserve players who can effectively fill-in during injuries and suspensions. This doesn't mean the 29th and 30th players on the roster need to be of the caliber of regular MLS starters, but if New York could find Stephen Keel last off-season and bring him in for just over $40,000, other similar options must be out there that can contribute more than a Marcos Poullo or Teddy Schneider.