So here we are once again. Here we are discussing a season that had some ups and downs, as well as some questionable decisions being made to either improve the side or possibly downgrade them.
After the rough offseason, pre-season and start of the season that the Red Bulls encountered after the trade of Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire, there has been some interesting things that were going on and you wondered where this side was going to finish in the end.
Eventually they got to an US Open Cup final, they did make the playoffs by earning that final spot in the Eastern Conference above that red playoff line, they started off a solid ninety minutes at the Chicago Fire with a four goal destruction and then it all ended once again against a Canadian side and a goal short of making an upset.
“Yeah, I think for me, this was probably the most challenging. We had less established players, more new guys and young players in the system. We had to get through a lot of different challenges in the year in terms of results, changing the formation, dealing with an Open Cup run.” said Marsch, “In all those ways I think actually helped us grow the most. I feel like, even when I look at the playoffs, we had six halves of playoff football this year, I feel like in five of them we performed great. The one, Toronto first half at home we were a little hesitant, but even then we walked out 1-1. One of the things that we’ve had struggles with in my time frame here has been in the playoffs really now playing the way we want to play in really a brave and courageous manner going after games.”
Marsch also believes that during their US Open Cup run with the playoffs that their record in elimination games was a positive. “I think that this year was markedly different, markedly different in terms of the understanding of what we want to become big games. You could go back to the Open Cup run and technically we’re 6-1 in elimination games, and a lot of those were on the road. So, when we had our backs against the wall, this team really responded. I think the toughest part about saying goodbye to this team is, in that sense, you feel like there was a lot more to give from everybody. The tanks were full, guys were ready to keep pushing. It’s not the kind of year where we’re left with frustration.”
Did Marsch and company learn something from this season for the Red Bulls? “For me, that means that we’ve learned a lot, we’ve grown a lot, and we have a lot to build upon to move forward. From a points perspective and everything else it may not look as successful but for me, this is our most successful season.”
Well at the end of the day the Red Bulls are once again trophy-less as they prepare for another offseason to see where they can improve and who will be the additions as well as the subtractions for the roster in 2018. But as always we need to know what Marsch and now sporting director Denis Hamlet believe needs to be fixed.
But for the first time in club history Jesse Marsch will be the first Red Bulls head coach who will continue his tenure after three seasons as Hamlet made sure to inform the media that Marsch will remain as manager after Octavio Zambrano & Hans Backe had a three season stint.
In 2018 the Red Bulls will once again get ready for an early round tussel in the CONCACAF Champions League as the draw will be done in January, another MLS regular season and hopefully another big run into the US Open Cup as they will try to return to the final in back to back seasons.
But while in truth this was a bit of a haphazard season seeing big players like Mike Grella and Aurelien Collin fall due to injury, seeing the birth and growth of Aaron Long, Sean Davis Derrick Etienne and Tyler Adams does show that this side is producing solid young players.
This team is fun to watch and exciting. The press has done some good and some bad, but the one thing that Marsch has done is changing the formation to keep the press going and maybe at times that has been a negative because Bradley Wright-Phillips remains as the lone striker, maybe it’s time to have a second striker to help him.
I’m was happy to see Gonzalo Veron return from his early season injury and have that breakout season I knew he had in him and he needs to remain on this team to improve his performance. A big influence on how matches were won and lost either as a spot starter or coming off the bench.
But if certain things happen during the offseason and we are seeing some players being moved within or outside MLS, then you need to think that these two should go after a veteran or a player with high quality that can get this side over the hump and get any of the top two domestic trophies that this club needs to add to the two supporters shields they earned.