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Who could be the MVP of the 2021 Red Bulls?

Some clear candidates taking shape despite an underwhelming season

MLS: New York City FC at New York Red Bulls
Cristian Cásseres (left) and Sean Davis (right) have both had standout seasons holding together an iffy midfield.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t been a blue ribbon season on the red side of New York. Even after a few weeks of decent form, Gerhard Struber’s team is still on the outside of the playoff chase with a month remaining. It’s hard to forgive fans and observers for not really feeling much worthy of accolades in 2021…hell, even this website couldn’t maintain its extremely scientific ratings system of the season’s early months. Even further, the team’s lack of offensive production through long stretches of the season makes for a counterintuitive search for standout individuals.

But even with the struggles of the New York Red Bulls as a whole, it’s been a season with some notable progress and character establishment from several players as the first full year of Struber and Kevin Thelwell’s project takes shape. Even with a campaign marked by injuries, postponements, and transfer upheaval preventing most from having complete seasons, several players have significant cases for the title of the most valuable over 2021, who we take a look at below:

Sean Nealis

MLS: Toronto FC at New York Red Bulls Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Long Island native Sean Nealis has made arguably the biggest step forward of any player in the squad in 2021, establishing himself as a first-choice center back under Gerhard Struber even before Aaron Long’s season-ending injury in May. Nealis has become a notable communicator in Long’s absence and has captained a backline that has largely held firm even through the team’s summer dip in form. His injury absence in July and August appeared to be a strong correlating factor with the summer snide, and the 24-year-old’s value to the side was rewarded with a contract extension in August.

Carlos Coronel

MLS: New York Red Bulls at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

After a shaky start, particularly in a May loss at Foxboro, Carlos Coronel has been a heroic bulwark keeping the Red Bulls’ recent struggles from bottoming out even further. The Brazilian keeper on loan from Salzburg has not only been a dramatic shot-stopper, keeping 9 clean sheets over the year, but his assured quality in possession has added a new dimension to the team and allowed for more varied build-up play. Fans will be hoping the 24-year-old is a high priority to be made a permanent signing in the offseason.

Sean Davis

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Orlando City SC Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

As he candidly admitted after the team’s recent win over Cincinnati, Sean Davis felt he had to win over Gerhard Struber’s trust when the demanding manager arrived last year. Clearly whatever the homegrown midfielder did to butter up Struber worked as he has played every single minute of 2021 and, like Coronel, has been one of the forces keeping the young team from unraveling entirely. His calm presence on the ball in the middle of the field has been an escape valve for a midfield that has struggled to gel, and his leadership skills have helped keep the team focused and professional through a season where giving up was probably a tempting idea at points.

Cristian Cásseres Jr

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t necessarily been smooth sailing for Cristian Cásseres since coming back from Copa America duty over the summer slightly injured. But the tenacious midfielder’s well-measured through ball to set up Andrew Gutman’s winner in Cincinnati over the weekend was a reminder of the Venezuelan’s formidable quality. Still only 21 years old, Cásseres was an engine of the team’s good form in the season’s early months, peaking with a stunning free kick score against Orlando.

Who do you think should be the MVP of the 2021 Red Bulls? Somebody not on this list? Nobody because the team isn’t that good? Nobody because you object to individual glorification on political or religious grounds? Sound off in the comments below…

Poll

Who would you say is the 2021 Red Bulls MVP?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Sean Nealis
    (10 votes)
  • 34%
    Carlos Coronel
    (25 votes)
  • 39%
    Sean Davis
    (29 votes)
  • 4%
    Cristian Casseres Jr
    (3 votes)
  • 8%
    Other
    (6 votes)
73 votes total Vote Now