This past weekend, the Red Bulls officially hit the halfway point of their 2013 campaign. As sports bloggers often do, we'll take this occasion to hand out some mid-season grades. We started with the goalkeepers and we've graded the defenders. Now we're on to the midfield and we'll eventually make our way to the forwards and front office.
Appearances (Sub): 13 (1)
McCarty was very, very good to start the season. Then he came down with an injury. Since his comeback, he's been shaky, though, he hasn't necessarily had a ton of minutes. If I were just grading McCarty's early season performance, it'd be an A, but including the last few games, he gets a B.
Appearances (Sub): 14 (0)
It took him a while, and while the rest of you were calling for his head, we kept the faith. And Cahill started scoring. Netting game winners against Toronto FC, the Columbus Crew and the LA Galaxy all help his cause. He sits second on the team in goals, fourth in assists and fifth in minutes for outfield players. It took him a while, but Cahill is finally proving to be the player we hoped he'd be when he signed last year.
Appearances (Sub): 11 (8)
There was an expectation Sam would make waves in his second MLS season. But that hasn't materialized. Instead, he's been the first man off the bench, often for Eric Alexander. He finally got a start this past weekend against the Philadelphia Union, but he didn't even last a half hour, getting red carded. Sam showed flashes of being a good player last year, but be it injuries, a regime change or what-have-you, he hasn't played to potential. He hasn't been an utter failure, but most expected much more.
Appearances (Sub): 13 (3)
No, Juninho hasn't been the player we expected on free kicks. But he has been effective in running the midfield. MLS isn't Brazil's Serie A, so there is an adjustment period, but Juninho has done well to deal with it. He leads the team in assists, a statistic often overlooked by his naysayers. But part of what brings his grade down is the discipline. A stupid red against Sporting Kansas City and enough yellows to earn a suspension against the Union is troublesome. If he cleans that up and creates a few more set piece goals, he'll bump that grade up.
Appearances (Sub): 0 (0)
Surprising? Another young guy who hasn't played to much gets an incomplete. With a team short at the defensive midfield position, it's possible Christianson, a rookie out of Georgetown University, would've gotten some time.
Appearances (Sub): 5 (4)
Bover is a young player. He showed some promise in pre-season, but pretty quickly fell off after his start against the Portland Timbers. He's made a few more appearances since then and showed some flashes -- a smart play here, a good cross there -- but not enough to warrant an actual grade. Bover just turned 21. He's got some time to develop before he's really expected to contribute.
Appearances (Sub): 17 (1)
Alexander had a few good games, but it's clear he's a central midfielder, not a winger. That's not to say he hasn't been serviceable, he has. He just hasn't been great. Like I said before, a C is an average grade. That seems fair.
Appearances (Sub): 16 (1)
On the other side of the midfield, opposite Alexander, Steele has proved to be more than just "serviceable." Steele was in much the same situation as Alexander: A role player thrust into the starting line-up when the Red Bulls changed formations. There he's played well.
Appearances (Sub): 0 (0)
Bustamante was a Supplemental Draft pick, so not the kind of guy you expect to contribute. And he hasn't. But he has made his way into the game day 18, which shows improvement. Aside from that, not much can be said about the Boston University product.
Appearances (Sub): 1 (1)
Obekop came on against Sporting Kansas City and had a pretty decent showing. In a game where the team played relatively uninspired, Obekop had some chances on goal. But aside from that, there isn't much else to evaluate him on. Thus, an incomplete.