In what is becoming one of the club’s less savory traditions, Red Bull New York will be selecting a new squad captain for the third time in four years going into the 2020 season.
While many teams make accommodations for key veterans in order to retain their know-how and leadership skills, the combination of the MLS salary cap and the accelerated personnel turnover pursued by Red Bull’s global soccer scheme have been a lethal cocktail for recent Red Bulls skippers, leading to short tenures wearing the armband for Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, and now Luis Robles.
But the practice is not without its benefit as an illuminating public statement of both the management’s intent and the squad’s personality going into each new season. Here’s a look at a few of the candidates and their case for being the first RBNY captain of the 2020s:
If longevity in the club and representation of its values were the only criteria for selecting a captain, it would be hard to give it to anybody but the steady linking midfielder from Holmdel. Davis progressed through the academy, PDL, and USL versions of the RBNY program before becoming a first team fixture over the last three seasons, and his composed, well-spoken persona is one that would be popular in any locker room or fanbase. Despite calls from some for perhaps a more physically robust player in the center of the pitch, a lack of new recruits leaves Davis set to continue his role as one of the first names on the teamsheet every week and as an unsurprising selection for captain.
The hulking red-haired center back from Long Island has been locked into the starting XI and become one of the more visible players in the team’s marketing since his trade from Vancouver in early 2018. While Parker found less consistent form in 2019 than his first season with RBNY, he undoubtedly emerged as one of the club’s key personalities, including publicity-savvy advocacy work as one of the squad’s union representatives. Parker’s large contract and local roots make him as likely as any player in the squad to survive the personnel churn and remain with the club for the long-term, and might give him the edge in gaining the armband.
Daniel Royer has quietly become one of the more significant players in club history since arriving midseason from the Danish league in 2016. Though playing as a nominal winger, the Austrian has gained more note for his prolific scoring than creative flair, and his 37 league goals put him seventh all-time on the Metro/RBNY leaderboard. However, Royer’s case for the captaincy is hindered by his age (he will turn 30 this season) and role as an energetic attacker that leaves him both peripheral to team action and susceptible to substitutions. Nonetheless Royer is by all appearances a well-liked locker room presence and one of the more commonly-seen custom jerseys at RBA, making his theoretical selection at least popular if not conventional.
Now arguably the club’s most valuable and talented player, Aaron Long’s unlikely rise from the USL scrap heap to international standout has been crucial to the team’s success and his face is surely on the front page of the brochure Red Bull hands to prospective young signings. But the center back’s success might paradoxically make him a flawed candidate for the newly-open captaincy. His emergence as a fixture with the U.S. national team means occasional absences from club games, and a swirl of European transfer rumors last summer appeared to affect Long’s focus. But a Long captaincy would be a welcome sight for Red Bull fans desperate for a sign that the man selected as league defender of the year two seasons ago is in it for the long haul in Harrison.
ALEJANDRO “KAKU” GAMARRA
Since the moment fans began downloading grainy Argentine league highlight videos during his prolonged transfer saga, nothing has been boring about Kaku’s RBNY tenure. The Paraguay international’s incisive deliveries and infectious personality have been key catalysts of the team’s best moments over the last two years. But a continued language barrier, mercurial form that has lead to occasional benching, and a combustible streak that most notably manifested in the accidental kicking of a Kansas City fan last spring likely combine to eliminate Kaku from contention.
Who should be the RBNY captain for 2020?
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