The Red Bulls have had quite the past 48 hours.
The team shipped off promising youngster Ambroise Oyongo, "Mr. Relia-Bull" Eric Alexander, an international roster spot, and allocation money to the Montreal Impact for Felipe Martins and the no. 1 allocation spot on Jan. 27. Within 24 hours, on Jan. 28 the Red Bulls announced officially they signed United States international Sacha Kljestan from Belgian side Anderlect.
On Jan. 28, we also learned that Matt Miazga failed his trial, or not a trial, but maybe actually a trial, which could have been a loan, but not a loan, and is returning to Florida to rejoin the Red Bulls.
Finally, on Jan. 27 the Red Bulls announced they signed Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Roland Zubar, and Damien Perrinelle to firm up their defense. The Red Bulls released their full preseason roster on Jan. 28 including trialists Ibrahim Sekagya, Bryan Gallego, Marius Obekop, and more.
The team is still not complete. The status of Tim Cahill is unknown, but most likely he is out the door. Ali Curtis said the team is looking at help on defense and at striker to help Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Right now, as constructed, the best three formations for the team are a 4-3-3, a 4-1-4-1, and a 4-2-3-1. Let's look at some possible starting lineups, and the merit for each:
This formation will be one Marsch likes. It's an attacking formation and probably will play like an energy drink. Luis Robles will be in net for each lineup, and the back four will remain like this: Miller-Miazga-Armando-Duvall. Miazga and Armando are the team's best two CBs. Until someone takes their spot (Sekagya could), they are the presumed starters. Is Miazga ready? He's had a heck of a winter playing with the USMYNT in Jamaica, and could take a big step forward in his second MLS season.
The central midfield would be an inverted V. Dax McCarty and Kljestan would play back, while Felipe Martins acts as your number 10. McCarty and Kljestan are both capable of being box to box midfielders covering large grounds and being defensively sound. Kljestan can move to left wing as soon as Sean Davis or Leo Stolz prove they are worth playing alongside Dax after seasoning with RBNY II.
Your forwards in this scenario are Peguy Luyindula out left, Bradley Wright-Phillips as your striker, and Lloyd Sam out wide right. Sal Zizzo will be in the mix here for Sam's spot, and it may be worth it to see if you can shift Sam out to the left side if Luyindula slows down during the year. Squad rotation will be key. I would like to see Marius Obekop play for RBNY II and try and earn a left wing spot this year.
This is a tricker formation to try and predict, because it requires a double-pivot like Pep Guardiola uses at Bayern Munich. If Dax McCarty is up for a big role this year, I can see him occupying that spot because of how well he's played for RBNY. Luis Robles is in goal, and the back four is once again Miller-Miazga-Armando-Duvall.
In the midfield Dax McCarty plays your defensive mid/do it all savior, while the line in front of him can be Luyindula-Martins-Kljestan-Sam. This takes Martins away from your number 10 role and pairs him with Kljestan in the midfield. This gives more space for the two midfielders to work with and play behind BWP. Luyindula and Sam are on the flanks, unless Kljestan moves out wide in this formation. I believe this is the only formation I'm fine with Kljestan out wide. Leo Stolz gets to work with Felipe Martins with more room to work in this formation and Kljestan doesn't need to push AS high up on the left flank as he would as a forward in a 4-3-3 or a winger in the 4-2-3-1. This would be the best formation to ease Stolz or Davis into the lineup.
As before Sal Zizzo is on the bench until he shows he's better than Lloyd Sam or can play the left side well. If Marsch plays Zizzo on the left then I be he starts over Luyindula, who probably cannot play more than 60-70 minutes most matches.
This is the most used attacking formation around the world these days and when Petke finally played it, things started clicking last year. As usual Robles is in goal and your back four is Miller-Miazga-Armando-Duvall.
Kljestan and Dax will serve as your defensive midfielders than play in the center and can move up at will. The Red Bulls didn't really run the attack through them last year, preferring to stay our wide with Sam and Henry. I would hope their creativity in the center of the pitch, gels with number 10 Felipe Martins. Playing Martins right behind BWP will do wonders for both, and I think Marsch will get the young Brazilian's career back on track.
Your attacking midfielders are Luyindula-Martins-Sam. Zizzo and Obekop will come off the bench, in an ideal world. And as usual, like there was any doubt, Bradley Wright-Phillips will be your striker. I just don't know if Luyindula out wide will be enough fire power to help BWP not be clogged up in the box, but Martins and Kljestan's creativity should draw defenses towards them freeing up the striker. Sacha Kljestan is enough of a talent to do just that, and Felipe Martins is a shift central attacking midfielder.
Overall, the Red Bulls will have more attacking firepower than one would have thought when Thierry Henry retired. The defense is still creaky, but there is reinforcements. I do think this squad could be deeper than last year, with plenty of help there to come off the bench in Leo Stolz, Connor Lade, Eric Stevenson, Marius Obekop (if he signs), Sean Davis, Sal Zizzo, and more. These players will get playing time due to RBNY II, something that could not be said in the past.
Another benefit would be to try players in unnatural positions in USL Pro to train them for MLS. It looks like the starting XI will be Robles, Miller, Miazga, Armando, Duvall, McCarty,Kljestan, Martins, Luyindula, Sam, Wright-Phillips until proven otherwise. Those are the best 11 players on the squad for an MLS game.