The New York Red Bulls are off to a fast start compiling seven points in three matches and leading the Eastern Conference standings. The 2015 edition of the club has done all of this with a new Sporting Director, a new Head Coach, and several new players. The club is in a transitional phase from an era that featured two internationally known star Designated Players in Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, to a new era where the team is the star, celebrated as a sum of good parts.
However, in the face of other clubs adding high impact Designated Players(DP) to their respective rosters the question should be posed: Should the Red Bulls add a DP to their roster? If so, when should that player be added? The fans seem to be split on this topic which I discovered about two weeks ago when I got involved in a spirited dialogue on social media in between two other fans. One of those fans was in favor of NYRB adding a DP type player regardless of who he was or what position he plays; the other fan was completely against adding a DP really under any circumstances.
The last official word we had from the club itself is when Head Coach Marsch commented back in the Florida training camp sessions stating that the team most likely would wait until the summer to add a Designated Player, if they add one this season at all. This rationale makes a certain degree of success with the consideration that any DP level player of impact would come from a foreign league. The summer months mark the offseason for many of those leagues in Europe and other parts of the world.
My question at one point to the fan who was against adding a DP to the Red Bulls roster in the social media dialogue I described earlier was essentially: "not even Messi?" . That was one of the two hypothetical scenarios where he was pretty silent. I think the other was Italian Serie A star DeRossi.
Conversely, the other fan involved wanted to add a DP to help the Red Bulls compete with NYC FC in the market, to sell tickets, drive up merchandise sales, and help the team replace some of the offensive production lost with the retirement of Henry. I can understand that sentiment especially the role of a midfield play maker to set up striker Bradley Wright-Phillips. It brought me back to the rumor mill last season regarding the potential for star midfielder, Xavi, to leave his European club and head to MLS and specifically the Red Bulls.
The Red Bulls may have missed out on Xavi, but the sentiment remains, at least among the fan base, that the club has to make a bold move to address that perceived deficiency on the roster. Furthermore, I understand the feelings of those who would like to see a DP level guy added because Americans like star players in sports. This new version of the Red Bulls, to their credit, is a very unselfish group of guys. The mantra seems to be that it is about the team as a collective unit, not one or two star players.
I find that quality admirable in this edition of the team, but at the same time, I understand the desire for the fans for a big time roster addition of a high level DP type performer. The fans who represent the detractors in this argument seem to feel that the club was too rigorously defined by the star caliber players over the last four to five seasons. They feel that the club should move forward with their plans to develop the total team concept and move toward the development of younger players with an eye toward the future.
New York State of Mind
I must admit that the fact that these other teams in smaller markets seem to attract DP level guys and the Red Bulls seem to be disengaged from the process is rather disconcerting to me. I enjoyed the excitement of the matches during the Henry / Cahill era and I do think that something is missing when it comes to this edition of the club.
Now, that being stated, I am also not advocating for an addition of just any DP at any cost. I still maintain that it has to be a player that fills a need or a void on the roster. It also should be a player that fits within the chemistry of the club because I feel that is critical to the success of a team. I think that player is out there.
In a season where the expansion team in Orlando is riding the success of their DP star, Kaka, and seem to be addressing a new rumor every week about more Latin American or South American players joining the team; I think the Red Bulls have to get creative and aggressive in keeping pace with the rest of the league.