It really didn't take long for the Red Bulls' new management to start clearing house.
Less than 24 hours after their season ended, Hans Backe was gone and Andy Roxburgh was in. A week later, four players were cut. Ten days later, that list swelled to 10. The day after the MLS Cup final, the Red Bulls pulled the strings on two deals, bringing in Jamison Olave, Kosuke Kimura and Fabian Espindola before flipping Sebastien Le Toux for allocation money -- potentially enough to keep Kenny Cooper around -- just three days later.
All of that was just a prelude to two massive deals: Terminating Rafael Marquez's albatross of a contract and bringing in Juninho from Vasco de Gama.
But there's a glaring hole in one part of the roster: The midfield.
In the back, there are four players who could start at centerback on any MLS team, with Heath Pearce making that four-and-a-half, as he can start anywhere along the back line. Connor Lade, Brandon Barklage and Kimura are all quality players at fullback (so can Wilman Conde). And oh yeah, the Red Bulls still have Roy Miller.
Up front, Espindola and Cooper will, likely, fight it out to start up front with Thierry Henry (if the team goes with a 4-4-2 or variant). Amando Moreno and Josue Martinez will provide youth and depth at the forward position, but both will need playing time to develop.
Not that there's lack of quality in the middle of the field. Juninho and Tim Cahill bring a ton of quality and Dax McCarty is (apparently) the league's most underrated player. Lloyd Sam, in his few appearances, showed a lot of potential and brought speed and technical ability to the team that as absent before. Joel Lindpere is still around. So is Victor Palsson.
The issue is depth. Cahill proved he can still bring a lot to the team even with an injury and Juninho, despite being 37-going-on-38, played in 37 games in 2012. But if either goes down there isn't much in the way of coverage, especially if Palsson or Lindpere leave. Lade and Barklage can slot into the midfield, but that could end up hurting the team's defense in certain circumstances.
So Andy Roxburgh (or Gerard Houllier or Ricardo Campos), if you're reading this, put on your Santa hat and put some midfielders under the Red Bull Arena Christmas tree, because there's only a little more than a month and a half before camp starts and the midfield can be the kind of position that makes-or-breaks the Red Bulls' season.
That is assuming they'll have a coach in place before the New Year...