The New York Red Bulls began their season in earnest at the Olimpico Felix Sanchez Wednesday night during the Concacaf Champions league. Consider it an appetizer.
The long haul started Wednesday night, but will kick into high gear on March, 2nd, in Columbus, Ohio. That’s the opener for the 2019 season, and when the Red Bulls quest for their first ever MLS Cup continues.
Before the season gets going, the writers at Red Bulls News Network, take a look at the biggest questions heading into the 2019 MLS season.
What will Tyler Adams loss mean to the team?
Liam Pettit: In my opinion, Tyler Adams is truly a generational talent. I really think the sky is the limit for Adams. With that said, it will be nearly impossible to recreate the work rate Adams provided. The double pivot is going to have to evolve and hold a lower line of confrontation. That shift could benefit a guy like Rzatkowski who is a better passer than Tyler, making him more able to cut out craftier passes in less crowded areas of the field. Question is, can Rzatkowski stay healthy and is Casseres ready to be a week in and week out starter if Rzatkowski goes down?
Sylvana Budesheim: Overall, not having Tyler will not have a severe impact on the team, but there will be times when his absence will be felt- when they have a multi-game stretch, when the midfield gets stretched by a team, and if ANY injuries arise. In a team where the system is the star, BWP’s form has to be a non-issue. He should be able to make his impact and then make way for someone else (e.g. Jørgensen) in every game. Send the message that he is a leader, not an island.
Joseph Steen: It’s never easy to replace the caliber of player Tyler Adams and how important he was to this team. There are going to be times this year where he is definitely going to be missed this year especially when the games become congested. Having said that, Marc Rzatkowski brings a more playmaking feel to that position with his passing and Cristian Casseres will get his chances. Casseres impressed with RB2 last year and was in the 18 a lot late in the year, but the big question is he ready should something happen to Rzatkowski?
Can BWP continue his form?
Liam Pettit: We’ve been wondering for a season or two when would we see signs of decline for BWP but it just hasn’t happened yet. He ages like fine wine but I worry as seasons go on that BWP has actually assumed more of a goal scoring burden than he ever has. I think Jørgensen could provide some help along with Danny Royer, but once again the question is can the starting RW consistently put up numbers. If you can get production from the rest of the attack, if won’t matter if BWP slows down, he will always find his way into goal scoring positions. BWP just needs less attention on him in big moments.
Joseph Steen: This has been a question that’s been on the mind of Red Bulls’ fans for a couple of seasons and nothing has shown me that BWP won’t be able to continue to maintain his play. He continues to get into goal scoring areas and the work he does off the ball is just as good. However, the team itself can not be overly reliant on him to carry the attack. They are going to need consistent production from Danny Royer again and help from others. Whether it’d be Jørgensen, Etienne, Muyl, Valot, etc. the more options they have the more dangerous this team can become. BWP will be their go to guy, but taking some of the burden off him will help the team in the long run.
Will Jorgensen make an impact in 2019?
Liam Pettit: Jørgensen will have to make an impact this season to provide the Red Bulls with another look they desperately need in my view. The 4-2-2-2 is an experiment Armas should invest into in 2019. Without having seen Jørgensen play much, it seems as though he played almost exclusively CF with Odense Boldklub. So pairing him up top with BWP could prove fruitful in the long run, given it could have bumps in the road during the regular season. If they feel he translates more to a wide player, I doubt how much they will get much out of him from also considering the options at winger already.
Joseph Steen: I think how much of an impact he will make will depend on how much Armas wants to experiment with the formation. Will we see a 4-2-2-2 look or a variation with two forwards up top at any point this season? Playing alongside BWP will help Jørgensen although it could take some time to get on the same page. As Liam mentioned if he moves wide there’s quite the pecking order there and his minutes will probably be limited. Armas has shown he likes to experiment and if they want to get Jørgensen involved right away changing the formation would be the way to go.
Will Kaku see out the season?
Sylvana Budesheim: Kakú will complete the season UNLESS the team falters in the first half of the season. They crash out of CCL and Open Cup, they lose more than win in the regular season, and he has to bail before he loses too much value.
Joseph Steen: We’ve had Kaku watch parts 1 and 2 already so part 3 means what? To be determined I guess. My belief is he will finish the season barring a complete collapse by this team early on and he has to leave before his value drops. I think if he has an impressive Copa America this summer the noise will once again get louder, but if he leaves it’s most likely next year.
Can the backline prove lockdown once again?
Joseph Steen: The front office deserves a lot of credit for not only resigning Tim Parker but giving Aaron Long a new contract as well. Long and Parker should continue to be one of if not the best center back pairing in MLS this year. I will admit I am a little concerned about Kemar Lawrence and his health as it was shown how much they missed him against Atlanta. If he and Murillo are healthy the backline should be the biggest strength of this team. Not to mention they depth they have with Kyle Duncan, Connor Lade, and others.
Joseph Goldstein: To quote the podcast I co-host, there is no reason to expect anything else. Aaron Long and Tim Parker formed a great partnership in 2018, and both players earned handsome contracts as reward. Plenty of credit needs to also extend to the fullbacks, Michael Murillo and Kemar Lawrence. Lawrence is rehabbing from a knee injury, but his limited role against Pantoja showed he is ready to return. Murillo struggles to provide consistency, but when he is locked in, he is incredibly dangerous moving into attack and a stout defender.
What impact will international competition have on the squad?
Sylvana Budesheim: Parker and Long will keep the back line the most intimidating in the league. I wonder if Berhalter will want them both for the Gold Cup. Indeed, the INTL windows will be the greatest test, as ALL the starters in the back line have caps. Duncan and Nealis will have a real opportunity then.
Joseph Steen: Having the Gold Cup and Copa America this year is going to hurt this team and you figure a lot of starters are going to be missing. I wonder if Berhalter will take both Long and Parker for the USMNT. Kemar could be with Jamaica, Murillo with Panama and Kaku with Paraguay. The team has depth but it will be tested. It also could provide some opportunities to some reserve players who are impressing with RB2.