While there's a bit more certainty in Red Bulls land this season with a good chunk of last year's starting XI intact, some questions still linger. As the season wears on, we'll get answers, but these five things are the most pressing for the Bulls heading into 2012.
1. How will the goalkeepers fare?
While both Ryan Meara and Jeremy Vuolo had pretty good preseasons, the real deal is quite a bit different. With it comes pressure, the physical toll a season takes on you and players kicking it into another gear since the games actually mean something. Plus, full squads of first teamers. If the Red Bulls are going to be successful, they're going to need Meara and Vuolo to step up and play well. Especially with the centerback the combo of Markus Holgersson and Wilman Conde up front, since the two didn't have that much time to mesh in the preseason.
2. How will Rafael Marquez do in the midfield?
Hans Backe seems to believe the Mexican designated player is going to do better in the defensive midfield, a sentiment shared by many an MLS pundit, but how well will he adjust to the role? He did a decent enough job there last season, but will he be able to transition for the full season?
3. What will the team do up top?
When the Red Bulls brought on Kenny Cooper there was much head scratching. What about Juan Agudelo? Luke Rodgers? Corey Hertzog, even? But the Luke Rodgers' visa issue is still up in the air and with Agudelo's upcoming summer vacation in London, it looks like Cooper is going to be the guy up top. But with Rodgers' do-or-die visa meeting today, will Cooper still be paired with Thierry Henry at forward once the season gets rolling? Could Henry drop back into the midfield with Rodgers and Cooper up front? How much time will Agudelo get?
4. Will Conde prove a bust?
Conde's stint with Atlas was cut short due to an instep injury and he couldn't play much this preseason because he was rehabbing from surgery. Then, when he's finally ready, he gets hurt 20 minutes into the Red Bulls' preseason win over the LA Galaxy and might not be back until the home opener. All those injuries don't quite inspire confidence from the guy who was supposed to remake the backline along with Holgersson. If he's rushed back, the fragile defender might pick up another injury. And even if he isn't, there's little to inspire confidence in his physical form.
5. How will Backe's "win all the things" strategy work out?
Last season Backe infamously said the team's goal was to win the Supporters Shield. That did not go as planned. This year, with additional depth, Backe said he wants to win everything he can - which really should be the attitude for every team everywhere. He even went as far as to say the team needs to win one of the three trophies they'll be in the running for this year. This should mean more subs and a better rotation, something Backe was simply awful at last season. Plus, it'll be nice to see the team try during the Open Cup, a tournament they could've walked into the finals for, if they just played a competent line-up against the Chicago Fire. There's certainly a ton of talent on the team. It's whether or not Backe can manage it to a title. Or 3.