The New York Red Bulls rounded out the SuperDraft on Tuesday with two more selections: Shawn McLaws a defender/midfielder from Coastal Carolina in the 3rd round (59th overall) and Manolo Sanchez a midfielder from Clemson in the 4th round (79th overall) which seem to indicate a deeper commitment than in previous years to building the team for the long term with younger players.
The fans of the club are getting increasingly restless at the lack of activity by the Red Bulls front office in addressing the needs of the roster after some turnover in personnel from last season. The club was very quick and decisive in the choices it made regarding the players not offered contract options for the 2015 season, and since then the activity has been sparse, with the exception of the deal with NYC FC where Ryan Meara was loaned in exchange for midfielder Sal Zizzo.
Meanwhile, it seems every club in the East, and nearly every other club in MLS is adding players to bolster their rosters ahead of the opening of training camps in a couple of weeks. The Red Bulls fans base never seemed to buy in to the rumor that the club was involved in potentially bringing back our former star striker, Jozy Altidore, and nobody was surprised when it was announced by the league that he had agreed to a transfer deal with Toronto FC.
I am not attempting to state that Altidore would have solved all of the issues that the Red Bulls have entering 2015, I think the two most pressing needs on the roster remain a playmaking offensive midfielder and a central defender with professional level experience. However, the Red Bulls fans seem to be almost resigned to the idea that next season is going to be a rebuilding year or "throw away" season. The fracture among the fans still remains where some feel that the team needs to bring in young players and build for the future, and another group which feels that the club should add some top flight Designated Player level stars as well as proven veterans in order to make a run at the playoffs in 2015.
The fact remains that this Red Bulls roster has some holes in it mainly a playmaking midfielder and a need for a proven central defender. The plan to address these vacancies remains a bit unclear at this point.
The drafting of the two players today represents the potential promise of the future for the New York Red Bulls. Shawn McLaws was the Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. This season he led the defensive unit of the team to 12 shutouts which represents a school record. He has the potential to be a solid defensive player at the MLS level once he gets some valuable seasoning in the professional ranks. His selection fills a need to build future depth in the defensive ranks for this club.
Manolo Sanchez is originally from Philadelphia, so his selection by the Red Bulls brings him closer to his family. He is a big midfielder at 6 feet 205 pounds and he originally went to college at Louisville before transferring into Clemson where he made an impact right away in his sophomore season. In 2014, Sanchez had 5 goals and 3 assists and was the third leading scorer on the team. He had a game winning goal in a victory over North Carolina State. He will fill a void in the Red Bulls organization for a big bodied midfielder who has offensive passing skills and scoring touch.
The current Red Bulls roster still has some open slots that need to be addressed namely some role players must be signed as well as the midfield and defensive spots mentioned earlier. The decision by the front office to not tender a contract to Ibrahim Sekagya is a mistake in my opinion. Then you couple that choice with the trade of Jamison Olave, and it creates a void in the defensive core of the team. I am not suggesting that Sekagya is on the same caliber playing level as Olave, but he was a solid player that could have provided some veteran stability to this Red Bulls defensive unit.
The front office also has to figure out the situation with Tim Cahill, and decide whether they are going to go younger across the roster at the MLS level, or whether they are going to add some veteran players in order to contend for the playoffs this season. Many questions about this club remain, but the answers should come quickly as the Red Bulls need to make some critical decisions before the season opener in about two months from now.