We here at Once a Metro like previewing stuff. Which is why we're having a whole week of season preview pieces. Well, it's time for another one, this time it's about us giving our Starting XI predictions.
All Starting XI images courtesy of LineupBuilder.com.
My lineup is a modified 4-3-3. I really like the 4-2-3-1 and what it brings to the table, but I wonder if playing Sacha Kljestan on the left or Felipe Martins so far back is not utilizing the best positions out of our roster. I switched Peguy Luyindula out wide, and moved Kljestan and Felipe forward. Kljestan can drop back and help Dax McCarty be defensively sound, and I guess Felipe is more than welcome to do so as well. I don't like Perrinelle starting on this team, so I have preemptively put in Matt Miazga until he is sold to Red Bull Salzburg or Leipzig or Red Bull Ghana after the U-20 World Cup.
I like attacking football, and I think the Red Bulls are going to play that. Most of the core lineup will be agreed upon by everyone, but if we want an energy drink on the field, these are your XI.
With Bradley Wright-Phillips, Lloyd Sam, Luis Robles, Roy Miller, and Dax McCarty locked into the starting lineup, the hardest role to cast here was left mid. The roster doesn't have an actual left mid on it. Sal Zizzo played one game on the left for Sporting Kansas City, but he doesn't cut it for me. I'm thinking that Mike Grella will get the start in left mid. Jesse Marsch seems to like him there and I do too. He's pacy and manages to put himself in good positions to score. Simply put, I think there's more upside for Grella than Zizzo.
As for the rest of the lineup, Marsch seems bent on playing Felipe alongside Dax McCarty, while Sacha Kljestan plays in the center attacking mid role. I'd like to see Felipe play higher up the pitch and maybe switch roles with Sacha, but Sacha gets his teammates involved and always seems to find space. The center backs, Ronald Zubar and Damien Perinelle, don't exactly inspire confidence, but those are our most experienced options.
This lineup is a mixture of hope and expectation on my part. Jesse Marsch seems to favor a 4-2-3-1, and the central midfield pairing looks set to be Felipe and Dax McCarty, at least initially. Robles in goal is a safe enough bet, as it Wright-Phillips taking the lone striker role up top.
And Sacha Kljestan will be on the field somewhere: I've stuck him out left because I sincerely hope Marsch looks to Peguy to key the attack as the team's central attacking midfielder.
As for the backline, Miller, Zubar and Duvall should start the season first-in-line for their respective positions. I have an inkling Marsch favors Matt Miazga to step up as the second CB, but the injury he picked up in Qatar seems to have set him back. I think that spot will go to whomever is in best form to start the season, and since Damien Perrinelle got the start against the Philadelphia Union, I've assumed he's the man impressing the coaches at the moment.
The obvious ones: Luis Robles in goal, Chris Duvall at right back, Roy Miller at left mid bombing up the wing provided width, Dax McCarty at defensive mid, Lloyd Sam at right winger, and Bradley Wright-Phillips at striker. There isn't a right back on the roster capable of pushing Duvall, McCarty and Sam are two of the best in MLS at their position, and the Red Bulls didn't try to provide Wright-Phillips with any competition.
The center back pairing is what it is. There aren't any great options, but we know Ronald Zubar will start. His partner could be Matt Miazga, Damien Perrinelle, or Andrew Jean-Baptiste, but Perrinelle has been playing a lot of minutes during the preseason. Sacha Kljestan and Felipe Martins are switching their traditional positions of holding mid and attacking mid respectively, and Kljestan will be playing further up the field. New signing Mike Grella will play left mid, but will focus more on getting involved in the attack and being in front of goal. He's able to do this because of Roy Miller's attacking abilities and willingness to push forward on the left wing.
Roy Miller is the only option the Red Bulls have on the left, and that's kind of scary. Relying on him in the attack leaves the left side vulnerable. They had the same issue last year, and until they get someone to fill in as a winger on the left, expect teams to counter on that side. Felipe takes over as attacking midfielder because he doesn't have miles on his leg like Peguy Luyindula does. Peguy can come on as a super sub. Kljestan of course moves up to supplement the left side and Grella moves into the box to help out Wright-Phillips.
On the defensive side, Zubar slots in with Miazga, although Miazga is a question mark because of an injury he picked up in late January. Duvall slots in because the right side of defense is a little thin and Duvall does have MLS experience. Dax McCarty is his usual Defensive Midfielder protecting the middle of the defense. Wright-Phillips scores goals and Robles saves them, enough said.