The New York Red Bulls have enjoyed a relatively peaceful off-season to date: no major signings; a few, mostly unsurprising, cuts from the roster. The MLS squad currently comprises 21 players. Of the core group of starters from 2015, only Damien Perrinelle is missing - and the club has said it hopes to bring him back, along with veteran bench options, Kyle Reynish and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
There are seven open spots on the MLS roster, and effectively a full team to staff at the USL level (only five NYRB II players had their contracts renewed for 2016). All told, it looks a lot like a club readying itself for another run at the league with the same starters that won the Supporters' Shield in 2015, and a fresh crop of young players to challenge for minutes when form and fitness desert the senior members of the squad. And that is pretty much what Ali Curtis said the plan was for 2016, so we take him at his word.
And in that spirit, we have been given no reason to stop believing the club's statement that it is in negotiation with Reynish, Perrinelle, and SWP for return to the squad. There is plenty of reason to question why the team feels it needs at least one of those players (Reynish - the MLS roster already has three 'keepers under contract), but that isn't sufficient to say the team is not trying to secure the three players it has declared it wants back.
As such, we might pencil in three roster spots for those players - which puts the projected total number of players under contract to 24. Add to that the recent news that RBNY is chasing the signatures of four academy graduates to Homegrown Player contracts, and the projected total of players under contract suddenly maxes out: 24 + 4 = 28.
Is the off-season essentially over before it has really started? Has RBNY identified the 28 players it wants for 2016, with 21 already under contract and seven lined up for the remaining roster spots? Unlikely. But, it is worth noting that the roster is technically full if we add up the two most significant pieces of news about targeted players we have been given to date in this off-season.
There are many reasons to believe RBNY isn't done with the transfer market yet: none of the seven alleged to be incoming has been confirmed as a Red Bull yet; four 'keepers is one 'keeper too many for most teams in MLS; if RBNY hits the SuperDraft with a full roster, it has diminished the trade value of rights to its selections; negotiations don't always run smoothly. And at least two players - Kemar Lawrence and Matt Miazga - are candidates for transfers out of the club in the near term.
Even if we do genuinely already know the seven players Ali Curtis wants to fill out the squad for 2016, he has his work cut out in simply signing all seven and holding on to the 21 already on the roster.
Signs are RBNY's off-season will soon heat up. And it will be a surprise if the 28 names currently penciled in to represent the Red Bulls in MLS in 2016 remain unchanged between now and March. But if the most substantive rumors and reports of the off-season to date are to be believed, RBNY has figured out the 28 players it wants for next season - and all that remains is to get them all under contract.