The New York Red Bulls have come close these last two years to claiming the MLS Cup. Led by their two attacking stars, Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips, and veteran keeper Luis Robles, the team expects to be right in the picture for a long-awaited title yet again. This year they may have the one thing that can get them over the line, more depth in their squad.
With NYRB II’s impressive season last year including winning the USL Cup, it had always seemed possible that younger players who were part of the 2016 USL campaign would get a shot at the first team in 2017. Players such as Tyler Adams, Brandon Allen, Derrick Etienne, and Aaron Long, look even more likely to have an expanded role for RBNY after an off-season that saw the team focus on bringing in players younger or less experienced than the spine of last year’s NYRB II.
At RBNY Media Day, head coach Jesse Marsch was full of praise for what the reserve team was able to accomplish and hopes they can bring something to the senior team:
The way they played in the playoffs and the way they matured over the year into the type of team they became. I think we were all excited to find a way to honor some of their development, by what it would mean for our MLS team and individually how’d they’d start to be able to contribute.
Brandon Allen stands out as one of the players in the senior team squad who had a big 2016 with the reserves. Allen scored 21 goals in all competitions and was named the USL Rookie of the Year and MVP of the USL Championship game for his hat-trick against Swope Park Rangers. While he won’t see as much time as he did in the USL last year, he knows what he needs to do to earn playing time:
[I need to] keep working on my craft and just individually making sure that every day after training I’m doing my extra work and putting in the extra time and I think my moments will come where I find moments off the bench to try and make an impact.
Though Allen, Etienne, Adams and seemingly-incumbent starting center back for RBNY, Aaron Long are the bigger names from 2016’s II team, other players such as Ryan Meara and Dan Metzger will be looking to add something to the senior squad as well. While Meara might be the backup goalie to Luis Robles, he is ready to jump in if he is needed:
The main thing is just to approach every day, trying to get better, working hard and on all the little details, so that when the chance does come to get a couple of games in the first team, I'll be ready. I won't be scrambling, I'll just slide right in.
Metzger had been a big part of the reserve team these last two seasons and praised the Red Bull Academy for being able to help players develop and build a cohesiveness together:
It’s great to know that everyone is on the same page, many of these guys have played together since U-12, U-14, all throughout the academy and the coaching staff does a great job helping us with that. Winning a championship was the icing on the cake, now I’m just happy to be here and put in the work.
RBNY coach Jesse Marsch likes his team and feels that with the addition of these players, it only adds to the potential of it:
I think that youthful fearless that the team and those young players displayed, we need to incorporate into the team that we are now. The potential for us to have our best roster, our most well rounded team, and the most weapons in our arsenal could be at the highest it’s ever been since I’ve been here.