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Loss Starts Red Bulls' Question-filled Off-Season

Will the content-looking Erik Soler or the slack-jawed Rafa Marquez be back in Harrison come next season?
Will the content-looking Erik Soler or the slack-jawed Rafa Marquez be back in Harrison come next season?

The final whistle in Los Angeles Thursday ended a tumultuous season in which the Red Bulls looked like they would live up to their billing as one of the most talented teams MLS had ever seen, then tank, then pick it back up in a too-little-too-late fashion.

That final whistle simultaneously raised a ton of questions about what the Red Bulls will do this off-season. Fans want varying degrees of reconstruction. The media says something has to give. The rhetoric coming out of Red Bulls' camp is that change isn't really coming.

But for a team that spent so much money not getting the results has to cause heads to roll somewhere. Or at least that' what logic would dictate.

But we all know "Red Bulls" and "logic" don't always go hand-in-hand.

What to do with the Backe/Soler regime?

This might be a question already answered, but it won't stop Red Bull watchers from wondering/fantasizing about an end to the coaching, GM tandem that produced this season's underachieving XI. This year's squad had no shortage of talent, but a whole lot of mismanagement failed to bring the club its first ever cup.

The main question is whether our Austrian soft drink-making overlords will be happy with a front office that seems willfully ignorant of the league in which the team plays. The Gold Cup wasn't a last second, fly-by-night operation, yet Backe still claims ignorance. If Backe simply fielded a respectable squad against the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup, the Bulls could have walked into the final, with the Richmond Kickers, a USL Pro club, awaiting the Chicago-New York winner.

What to do with Rafa Marquez?

Another question that might already be answered, but won't stop the speculation. We all know MARQUEZAGEDDON 2011 was a most unwelcome distraction for a team sputtering through mid-season. But it still remains to be seen whether that, coupled with his lackluster play, high salary and Designated Player tag ends the Marquez experiment this winter.

Will Joel Lindpere stick around for year three?

There's speculation the Estonian international will garner attention from Europe come January. Lindpere doesn't have the name recognition Henry or Marquez does, but he's the heart of this Red Bulls squad.

The fan-favorite has got the call from his country, but chose to stay in New York. He's also said he's received interest from EPL clubs. It remains to be seen whether or not that's enough to lure him back to Europe.

What happens with Tim Ream?

Ream went through a sophomore slump this season, but that hasn't kept Arsenal from allegedly coveting the center back. Rumors have swirled since the Emirates Cup that the defense deficient North London club wants Ream, and those will only pick up as the January transfer window approaches.

What makes this even more interesting: What happens with Ream could factor into what happens with Marquez, making the rumors even more intriguing. The Red Bulls might be loath to get rid of a "world class" defender if their top defensive prospect jumps town, but Ream sticking around could push Marquez out the door.

What happens in the goalkeeping department?

Frank Rost is 38 years old, brought to this side of the Atlantic to shore up a problematic goalkeeping situation. He's reportedly unclear on his future, but due to his age can't be any kind of solution in between the posts for the Bulls. Bouna Coundoul is a shaky replacement, as is out-on-loan Greg Sutton. Twenty four year old Alex Horwath could be in the mix, too, but is, at best, a long shot.