Throughout the off season the most common noise coming out of the New York Red Bulls' locker room and front office was the rhythmic drumming of "continuity." Andy Roxburgh, Mike Petke and Thierry Henry all boasted the importance of returning to a preseason camp full of familiar faces, and for good reason. For the first time in years, the club decided to skip the annual team overhaul and stick with the majority of the 2013 Supporter's Shield winning side. As familiar as the squad might seem, the off season did bring about some disappointing losses. Two of those casualties come in the form of center back Markus Holgersson and right back Brandon Barklage. Coupled with a few new additions, New York's back line could look very different in the 2014 season.
Jamison Olave, New York's 2013 defender of the year, returns to claim his spot at center back, which is great news considering the Red Bulls failed to win a single game last season in which the Colombian monster didn't play. Olave is joined on the back line with Kosuke Kimura, who seemed to win out in positional battle for the right back spot against Barklage, who was sent packing to San Jose as a result. Another [some would say unfortunately] familiar looking face in the back four is Roy Miller. The Costa Rican left back returns for his fifth season with the club and will look to give New York's attack an extra bite with his overlapping runs.
Looking to fill the hole created by Holgersson's absence, the Red Bulls brought in former Barcelona B squad captain, Armando Lozano (known only as "Armando") who will fight for his spot against returning center back Ibrahim Sekagya. Sekagya, whose errant pass was directly responsible for one of Houston's goals in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals last season, will start his first full season in New York since signing with the club from Red Bull Salzburg. Both center backs have had solid showings during the preseason and either could grab the starting nod from coach Petke. Rounding out center back depth, Matt Miazga, the 18 year old home grown signing from the Red Bulls Academy, will look to get some solid minutes during the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions league tournaments.
Through an essentially free trade, New York also acquired right back, Richard Eckersley from Toronto FC. While a knock has kept the English defender out of most of the preseason friendlies, he should have a fair shot at usurping the starting spot from Kimura and adding another overlapping option for the Red Bulls attack.
The addition of Bobby Convey gives RBNY even more depth on the back line. The former US international plays predominantly on the left wing, but can be counted on in a pinch to fill in at left back.
As demonstrated yesterday by Austin Fido, New York's back four were the league's third-worst defense at keeping opposing players from getting a shot on target last year. We have to hope that the new faces in a sea of familiarity will have what it takes to make their mark and improve those stats. It's up to them to prove to everyone that change isn't necessarily a bad thing.