As preseason kicks into full gear and MLS play approaches, it's time to review what questions New York Red Bulls' fans should be asking and what the media spin cycle look to this year as their narratives for the season.
Will Sean Davis get a fair shot this year?
Very little rotation and an unusual absence of injuries limited Davis' time last year, but he showed very well whenever given the opportunity. With CONCACAF Champions League this year leading to an even more congested schedule, Davis should get on the field more often. Will there actually be more rotation though? That remains to be seen. Sean Davis is clearly capable of playing at an MLS level, if not higher. He led the team in passing percentage in 2015, at 88%. This, in turn, puts Davis at 6th in passing percentage in the entire league (10 game minimum). If Davis can't crack in Marsch's lineup this year, should he start to look elsewhere to get the playing time he deserves?
How will Gonzalo Verón perform in a more prominent role?
New York's big signing last year didn't quite have the instant impact many expected, but according to Marsch and Curtis, his signing was always intended more for this season. With the grace period out of the way and a full preseason under his belt look for Verón to pick up a much bigger role in the team. It's not quite sink or swim time for the Argentine DP, but he's getting paid a high salary to perform. Will he prove he can stick or will fans' fears come to light?
What can be considered a success for this year's revolution of youth signings?
New York signed 7 Homegrown players this offseason, inking Tyler Adams, Derrick Etienne, Mael Corboz, Brandon Allen, Alex Muyl, Chris Thorsheim, and Scott Thomsen to professional contracts. It's unreasonable to expect all the Homegrown signings to start playing and make their mark right away, but what is a reasonable metric for their success? Will all, or even most, of the Homegrowns remain on the first team, will they be sent to NYRBII for the year, or will they be cut entirely? Realistically, if any single player gets a few hundred minutes of MLS action consider it a victory.
How will New York cope without Matt Miazga?
Miazga served as New York's breakout star last year, and the face of the new regime's commitment to youth development. And now, after one successful season, Matt Miazga is gone, having been sold to reigning Premier League champions and current midtable team, Chelsea. Will New York's backline be able to hold up and step up? With Miazga gone and Damien Perrinelle months away from being healthy, how will New York start the season with an entirely new centerback pairing? Lastly, who will replace Miazga on the roster? Three centerbacks will not last four competitions, especially when one is injury prone, another is currently injured, and the last is an active international. So the team will need reinforcements. Will they promote from within with Mason Deeds or Konrad Plewa, will they sign draft pick Zach Carroll to the first team, or will they look to the international or trade market for the answers to their centerback problem?
Does it really matter if the Red Bulls loses a game to NYCFC?
Does it really matter if the boys in blue win a game this year? Yes, it would be nice to sweep the series again. Yes, it's always important to win against your rivals, especially in conference. And yes, a loss would make certain situations insufferable for a few weeks afterwards. But it's only 1 game, worth 3 points. Just like every other one. What matters is who is ahead at the end of the season. So would one game really be the end of the world?