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Ins and Outs: Former Red Bulls on the move (or not) in 2019

A look at the end-of-season decisions affecting former New York Red Bulls players on the MLS 2018 rosters of other clubs around the league.

Columbus Crew SC v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Finals - Leg 2 Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The New York Red Bulls are going to wait until Monday, December 3, to formally announce their end-of-season roster moves - and that is their right.

To pass the time until RBNY advises its first significant adjustments to the playing staff of the off-season, Once A Metro offers a look at how former Red Bulls on other teams around the league were affected by MLS’ annual roster purge.

Of the 23 teams in MLS 2018, all but two - MLS Cup finalists Portland Timbers and Atlanta United - have notified the league of their intentions with regard to contract options declined or exercised for next season, as well as their list of players with expired contracts. All but three - Portland, Atlanta, and RBNY - have published those decisions.

This is merely the first wave of roster-cutting and keeping for this off-season. Some players out of contract will be re-signed to new deals, some players under contract will later be waived or traded; most will move on to other clubs or an entirely new line of work.

Here is the current status of the RBNY-relevant players that finished up 2018 on the rosters of other MLS teams:

Chicago Fire

In: Dax McCarty’s contract is guaranteed for next season. The Red Bull legend-in-his-own lifetime is believed to be entering the last guaranteed year of his contract with Chicago. The Fire is looking at a rebuilding year ahead, after a dreadful 2018 that saw the team finish 10th in the Eastern Conference. No current reason to believe McCarty won’t be as significant to Chicago in 2019 as he had been since landing at the club in 2017.

Colorado Rapids

In: MetroStars legend Tim Howard is still on the Rapids’ roster, heading into the final year of the mammoth contract he signed to return to MLS. Howard was a near every-game starter for Colorado in 2018 and the Rapids were not good at all, that plus the fact he will turn 40 around the beginning of the 2019 MLS season does raise the question of whether a team in need an overhaul is well served by tying up millions in salary on an ageing ‘keeper. But it will be a surprise if Howard doesn’t see out his contract with the Rapids, regardless of results in 2019 or the team’s roster-building priorities for the off-season.

Out: Former NYRB II defender Mike da Fonte has had his option declined after spending 2018 on loan to USL’s Phoenix Rising. Da Fonte got a solid string of starts with the Rapids in 2017, making 17 regular-season appearances for the club, but the decision to loan him out to Phoenix for 2018 signaled the Rapids’ intention to part ways - now seemingly confirmed by his release. At Phoenix, da Fonte provided significant minutes to a superior USL team, as he has been doing every season - except his 2017 with the Rapids - since he returned to the USA after a few seasons in Portugal. Expect him land at whichever ambitious USL club has space for him in 2019.

Columbus Crew

In: Ben Lundgaard played one memorable season for the Red Bulls’ U-23 team in PDL 2017. The Crew drafted him in 2018 and loaned the young ‘keeper to Indy Eleven in USL, where he mostly backed up starter Owain Fon Williams. The Crew has picked up Lundgaard’s option for 2019. With Columbus’ starting ‘keeper Zack Steffen expected to leave the club in the near future, along with the Crew’s head coach Gregg Berhalter, Lundgaard may get a chance to impress a new coach for a shot at a first team role during the pre-season.

Out: Ricardo Clark started out as a pro with MetroStars back in 2003, and may yet push his playing career into a 16th year. He will be 36 in February and managed only 13 appearances and eight starts for the Crew in the 2018 regular season, so no great surprise his contract option for 2019 was declined. It is surprising, however, that Columbus advised it has opened discussions with Clark for a possible return to the squad for next season.

Between the injury he was recovering from when he landed at Columbus and the injury that curtailed his 2018 season, Mike Grella made 12 regular-season appearances and five starts, tallying one goal and an assist. That was an improvement on his 2017 playing time with RBNY: eight appearances and three starts in the league, with no goals or assists. That all adds up to a player who hasn’t looked to be at his eye-catching best for two years now. Columbus has declined his option, he turns 32 in January, and he’s been having injury issues for the last two seasons: he may have some challenges finding his next contract.

D.C. United

Out: Oniel Fisher won the 2014 NPSL Championship with RBNY U-23s (and Sean Davis), he won the 2016 MLS Cup with Seattle Sounders and, before injury cut his 2018 season short, he appeared to have finally won a regular start in MLS this year with D.C. United. He is out of contract, but might be a shoo-in to return to DC were he not nursing a long-term injury expected to keep off the field for several months yet. Nonetheless, DCU has indicated it is “trying to be creative” with regard to reaching an agreement with Fisher.

FC Dallas

In: Jimmy Maurer was an unsigned New York Red Bulls draft pick in 2011. His career really got going in 2014 when he got the starting ‘keeper’s job for New York Cosmos in NASL. He backstopped Cosmos to the 2015 and 2016 NASL Championships and got a look from FC Dallas in the summer of 2017. FCD plucked Maurer from the wreckage of Cosmos and NASL at the end of 2017, and he got 13 starts in MLS 2018. Under contract with Dallas for 2019.

Houston Dynamo

In: Eric Alexander was a key player for RBNY in the two seasons of Mike Petke’s tenure as head coach. Before forcing himself to the forefront of Petke’s plans with the Red Bulls, Alexander had been a utility player for FC Dallas and Portland Timbers. He seemed to have fallen back into the role after leaving RBNY, in stints at Montreal Impact and Houston - but in 2018 he got more MLS starts and minutes for the Dynamo than he’d had in any season before or since his days as a Red Bull. He’s under contract for 2019 with Houston.

LAFC

In: Former MetroStars head coach Bob Bradley is unsurprisingly sticking around to see LAFC through another season.

Shaft Brewer Jr really has no connection to RBNY, but he did have a brief stint in RB Leipzig’s youth set-up before returning to the USA and ultimately connecting with LAFC. He saw very limited time with the first team in 2018, but his option has been picked up for 2019.

Out: Thank Danilo Silva for whatever it is RBNY does with the fourth-round 2019 MLS SuperDraft pick it acquired from LAFC in exchange for his playing rights. Bob Bradley reached back to his MetroStar days to rekindle a relationship with the defender that yielded six appearances in all competitions back in 2005. In 2018, Bradley got 10 league appearances out of Silva in exchange for that low-end draft pick to RBNY. LAFC has announced the player’s loan from Internacional has expired and the player is returning to the Brazilian club.

LA Galaxy

No former RBNY players under contract or released.

Minnesota United

In: Mason Toye was once a Red Bulls Academy prospect, but he took his talents elsewhere and ultimately found his way to Minnesota United via the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. Seventeen appearances and two starts is not at all a bad return for a rookie in MLS, though Minnesota did not enjoy a great 2018. His contract was guaranteed for 2019, so he remains on the roster of a club seeking to build a more competitive team for next season.

Montreal Impact

In: Quincy Amarikwa was never really a Red Bull; in 2012, he was a summertime trialist RBNY picked up off the waiver wire and then flipped out to Toronto FC for a draft pick. He joined Montreal from San Jose in August and closed out the season with a string of starts for L’Impact. Under contract with Montreal for 2019.

Chris Duvall re-upped with Montreal at the end of last season, so he’s entering the second year of a reported two-year deal. After career-highs in MLS appearances (27), starts (25) and minutes (2210) in 2017, Duvall’s time on the field dropped off precipitously in 2018 - his momentum stalled by a mid-summer injury.

New England Revolution

Out: Juan Agudelo’s contract is up at the end of the year and it is thought he may be entertaining offers from abroad. The former Red Bull and RBNY Academy product scored just three goals in MLS for New England this season.

New York City FC

In: Daniel Bedoya’s RBNY connections run deep: Academy product; 2014 NPSL Championship with the U-23s; part of NYRB II’s inaugural-season roster in 2015. He even played with current RBNY defender Tim Parker at St. John’s. But he didn’t survive the first end-of-year cuts with NYRB II and dropped out of sight for a few seasons. He popped back up in August this year with NYCFC. Has yet to make an appearance in MLS with the blue team, but his contract option was picked up for 2019.

Orlando City

In: Former RBNY captain and the team’s all-time assists leader, Sacha Kljestan, is under contract with Orlando for 2019 and would appear likely to stick around to help the team pick up the pieces after a dead-last finish in the Eastern Conference in 2018.

RBNY-adjacent RJ Allen (former RBNY Academy and NYRB II record goalscorer Brandon Allen’s brother) is also contracted with Orlando through 2019.

Philadelphia Union

Out: Adam Najem’s contract option was declined after a 2018 season in which he added no minutes to the five MLS appearances he made for the Union in 2017. The RBNY Academy product did win his first cap for Afghanistan this year and has a couple of solid seasons in USL for Bethlehem Steel under his belt.

The Union’s roster is currently under the direction of Sporting Director Ernst Tanner, who joined the club in August from Red Bull Salzburg, where he was academy director. We wait to see if Tanner brings a touch of RalfBall to Chester, PA.

Real Salt Lake

In: Nick Rimando was a New York Red Bull for about two weeks of the 2007 pre-season - the legendary ‘keeper hasn’t left RSL since that tumultuous (for him) winter that saw him bounce from DC United to RSL to RBNY and then back to RSL. Doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere.

In 2011, RBNY churned through five ‘keepers, including Alex Horwath, who played one game - keeping a clean sheet in Columbus. He has been in Europe more recently, but landed with RSL at the beginning of the 2018 MLS season. Injury knocked his season sideways, but it would appear he’s set to go another year as back-up to the not-getting-any-younger (turns 40 this year) Rimando.

If RSL does the decent thing and appoints Jamison Olave as full-time head coach of its USL side Real Monarchs (he spent most of this year serving as the team’s interim head coach), then RSL will have a pretty solid ex-RBNY center-back pairing in the top coaching jobs in its organization: Mike Petke coaching the MLS squad and Olave in charge of the reserves in USL.

San Jose Earthquakes

Out: Dominic Oduro is out of contract, and that might have been the primary reason the Quakes traded for him this summer - sending Quincy Amarikwa to Montreal in return. Amarikwa is still on Montreal’s books; Oduro is a low-impact exit from the Quakes’ roster - he gave 30 minutes over five appearances to San Jose in 2018. The Quakes had the worst record in MLS last season, and need roster room rather urgently in order to build for a better 2019. Oduro hasn’t made this little impact at a team since his fleeting stint with RBNY in 2009. At 33, he may find it difficult to add to his 12-year, eight-club career in MLS.

Seattle Sounders

No former RBNY players under contract or released.

Sporting Kansas City

No former RBNY players under contract or released.

Toronto FC

In: TFC had a rough follow-up to its all-conquering 2017 season. In 2018, the team saw its MLS single-season points record snatched away by RBNY and didn’t even enjoy the consolation of making the playoffs to defend its MLS Cup title. The response to falling on its face one year after trampling all over the league has been measured so far. No great sign of panic in Toronto, where the initial off-season roster moves included a healthy number of options beings picked up, including that of Caleb Patterson-Sewell. The goalkeeper cost TFC a fourth-round draft pick earlier this season, thanks to clocking time with RBNY in 2008 and 2009.

TFC retains its two best-known ex-RBNY players, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, under contract for 2019.

Out: Drafted by MetroStars in 2005, well-traveled MLS stalwart Jason Hernandez gave TFC a veteran presence on the roster and a handful of appearances on the field in the last two seasons. The 35-year-old defender’s contract with Toronto has expired.

Vancouver Whitecaps

In: Ex-RBNY midfield dynamo Felipe is under contract with Vancouver for 2019.

Yordy Reyna has played for both RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig, but never for RBNY. His option for 2019 was picked up by the ‘Caps.

Out: Head coach Carl Robinson was let go by Vancouver at the end of September. The team missed the playoffs by two points this season, but an end-of-year press conference revealed substantial rifts in the locker room. Incoming head coach Marc Dos Santos is expected to preside over a change in both culture and results at the club in 2019.

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