To defend the Supporters' Shield, the New York Red Bulls are expected to stick with the formula that brought last season's success: "no soloists", the team is the star. A successful team, of course, creates its own stars. RBNY is not short of individual talent, and opponents will plan to contain those talents (Bradley Wright-Phillips, Lloyd Sam, Mike Grella, Sacha Kljestan, Gonzalo Veron, etc, etc) accordingly. And the Red Bulls in turn must plan for the key players on opposing teams. Here is a look at five of those opposing players: five who might reasonably be expected to challenge RBNY's efforts to win its third Shield of the last four seasons.
1. Benny Feilhaber: Sporting KC (April 9) - Feilhaber is known around MLS as a playmaking midfielder. Last season he ranked third in the league with 15 assists. The Red Bulls will have to defend against his quick ball movement. He also scored 10 goals last season: a career high. The key to contain Sporting KC's top player is to draw him offside, or double him before he finds a teammate.
3. Stefan Frei: Seattle Sounders (June 19) - Yes, the Sounders have a great offense composed of national team goal scorer, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, also an elite scorer in MLS. Seattle's goalkeeper, Stefan Frei, however, is among the league's elite behind the pipes. Frei made 111 saves last season, and recorded 10 shutouts. Though underrated, the Switzerland-born, California-raised 'keeper finished with a 14-10-6 record for the Sounders, and started every game. The key to scoring against Frei is for the Red Bulls to utilize corner kicks to set up scoring opportunities.
4. Kei Kamara: Columbus Crew (June 25 & October 16) - The Red Bulls had problems limiting Columbus' star forward, Kei Kamara, last season - but so did most teams in MLS. The Sierra Leone native placed second in the league with 22 goals scored in 2015. To limit him, the Red Bulls will have to draw Kamara either offside, or force the Crew to reset their offense.
5. Robbie Keane: LA Galaxy (August 7) - Keane is one of the best goal scorers in the MLS. The Irishman scored 20 goals last year for the Galaxy. He is a quick, nimble striker, who can pace the ball when dribbling up the field. However, Keane can also play different roles for Los Angeles' offense, such as an attacking midfielder or a winger. The Red Bulls will have to pick up on defense, and trap him to slow his dribbling pace. New York will have to force Keane to pass, or force it out of the Galaxy zone.