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Nine former New York Red Bulls in the latest cohort of MLS free agents

MLS Free Agency isn’t quite as free as it might be, but for nine former Red Bulls it could provide a route back to the league.

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MLS: Orlando City SC at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t expect to see the New York Red Bulls rushing to sign players from this year’s cohort of MLS free agents. Not that there aren’t players who can and will make significant contributions for teams around the league in 2019 - there almost certainly are several such players on the list of those currently eligible for MLS free agency (a formal designation that allows players who are at least 28 and have played at least eight years in the league to negotiate somewhat freely with any team they choose in MLS).

But RBNY’s RalfBall principles mean it is generally less interested in signing players at or past the peak of their careers. It would prefer to devote its resources to keeping the in-their-prime players it already has under contract and developing its next generation of starters and stars.

Still, there is no shortage of former Red Bulls on the 34-strong list of players who entered MLS free agency on December 11. Here’s a quick look at the league’s nine RBNY-connected free agents heading into the 2019 season:

Quincy Amarikwa: Never officially a Red Bull, but the club did pick up his rights in the summer of 2012 and bring him into training for a couple of weeks. RBNY flipped his rights to Toronto for a draft pick, and he has bounced around the league since. He finished this season on Montreal’s roster after San Jose swapped him for Dominic Oduro in the summer.

Ricardo Clark: A MetroStars draft pick in 2003, most of Clark’s time in MLS has been spent in two long stints with Houston Dynamo. He was signed by Columbus via free agency at the start of the 2018 season, and may yet stick with the Crew for 2019 - the club announced it was in talks to bring Clark back for the new season in its end-of-year roster update.

Aurelien Collin: His signing transformed RBNY’s 2016. The team lost nine games in the 2016 regular season - six of them before Collin’s debut in May. The Red Bulls finished top of the Eastern Conference standings that year: the performance that ultimately qualified them for this year’s CONCACAF Champions League and a memorable run to the tournament’s semifinals. Injury and the emergence of younger, fresher-legged players to start at center-back have since restricted his playing time for RBNY. In 2016, he played in 31 games in all competitions; in the last two seasons he’s made a total of 26 appearances for the first team. Collin told OaM’s James Justice he’s enjoyed his time with the Red Bulls and would like to return to the club. Perhaps he will, but other teams will now get their chance to persuade the 32-year-old to lend his talent and experience to their rosters instead.

Jason Hernandez: Per Sportsnet’s John Molinaro, Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko may not have ruled out bringing 35-year-old Hernandez back for another season. The 2005 MetroStars draft pick is surely nearing the end of one the more interesting careers in MLS - he started his career in what turned out to be MetroStars’ ;ast year before Papa Red Bull bought the club; moved to the league’s (ultimately) doomed Chivas USA project; then enjoyed a long run with San Jose including being part of the club’s 2012 Supporters’ Shield winning squad; next he landed with NYCFC for its inaugural season; and he was with TFC during its all-conquering 2017. Hernandez has quite the memoir to write whenever he’s ready to tell his story.

Chris Konopka: Speaking of players with a story to tell, Konopka has been part of Ross County’s 2015-16 Scottish League Cup winning squad and Cardiff City’s2017-18 promotion-winning EFL Championship squad while continuing to be on call for MLS teams that need emergency goalkeeper cover. Made one appearance for RBNY in 2011.

Roy Miller: At the end of 2018, only 13 players in RBNY history have made 140 appearances in all competitions for the club, and only 12 have played more than 11,000 minutes as a Red Bull - Miller is on both those lists. He was released by RBNY in 2015, but landed back in MLS with Portland in 2017. Injury effectively cost him the chance to impress Timbers’ new head coach, Giovanni Savarese, and he’s on the hunt for a new club in 2019.

Dominic Oduro: Made a brief stop with RBNY in 2009; currently seeking his ninth MLS team.

Tony Tchani: Drafted by RBNY in 2010, Tchani landed at Columbus in 2011 (via Toronto) and established himself as a regular starter over a five-year stint in Ohio. Has had difficulty sticking with a club since: a year in Vancouver in 2017 was followed by a half-season with Chicago in 2018 - he was waived by the Fire in August.

Sal Zizzo: Won more regular starts for RBNY than anywhere else he’s played in MLS by accepting Jesse Marsch’s challenge to convert to right back. Zizzo was released by the Red Bulls at the end of the 2017 season; injury blighted his one season with Atlanta United, but he does have the 2018 MLS Cup to show for his time with the Five Stripes.