The New York Red Bulls disappointed in 2019 after setting the points record, and winning the league in 2018. The factors leading to this drop are debatable, but the injury, and later departure of Bradley Wright-Phillips plus the big spending of teams across the league, are the two biggest problems facing the Red Bulls.
So far, only new faces in the 2020 squad are those of rookies. The young players come in with big questions. Are they MLS ready?
While they may not be additions to the squad, head coach Chris Armas spoke about two returning players who he thinks are adding excitement and energy. Josh Sims returning on loan and Florian Valot has recovered from his ACL tear.
Sims returns on loan following a promising showing at the end of last season, culminating with a goal against the Philadelphia Union in the 2019 MLS Playoffs. Sims was substituted early in the game due to injury concern, leaving many to ask, “what if?”
That question may find its answer in 2020.
“[Sims] adds a really nice element to our attack. Our goal all the time is to have players that are willing to play against the ball, but when we finally win the ball, that have different qualities...[Sims] also operates with intelligence but he can run, he looks to stretch back lines, he is a good one versus one attacker. So again, he has something that we don’t have an abundance of, a guy that can create on his own, looks to get on the move and really is a dangerous final third guy.” Chris Armas, adds what he wants to see in 2020, “…we want him and expect him to pick up where he left off, which was when he had scored his first goal with the Red Bulls against Philadelphia in the last game of the year, we want to build on that.”
Armas sees Sims as a big part of the offense this year. With 2019 team MVP Daniel Royer, fellow designated player Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra, and Brain White, who scored 9 goals in his rookie season, Sims could add a great boost to an already talented group.
“[Valot] brings something different to our team… He is an attacker, that not only can play against the ball because he can press and counter press and he’s actually really good at that, but he has a real intelligence in that part of the field.” Chris Armas continues his praise by adding, “[Valot] has certain intelligence and a real nice passing ability.“
Hopes are high, and Armas seems confident Valot is ready to push for minutes come March. Armas was full of praise for the returning player, noting his ability to influence the offense and play the Red Bulls’ style.
With Valot, hopes were high early in the 2019 season that he would become a big part of the squad. When he was injured for a second consecutive season, many fans have put expectations of a grand return away. Although Valot had shown glimpses of a great player when he was healthy, fans worry about his fitness and ability to stay healthy.
“What we see now from Florian, is a really excited player and it feels like a new signing. Some teams have added in certain spots, but we feel like with Josh [Sims] coming back and with [Valot] coming in, those are like two new players for us.”, explained Armas.
Last summer, when Josh Sims was announced as a late addition, there was a buzz around Red Bull Arena. With the announcement that the loan will now continue into 2020, fans are hoping to see magic from the young designated player. However, the news of the loan has come across more as a returning player and less as a new signing.
Valot on the other hand is not coming back from a good showing at the end of last season like Sims. He played briefly at the start of 2019, and did quite well. His health and fitness pose big questions, and therefore make fans uneasy. Proving he hasn’t lost a step after so much time away from the field, as well as an ability to stay healthy will be his challenge. However, the fans would love nothing more than to see Valot come in and show that he is back! The potential for Valot to feel like a new signing to fans does seem possible.
With some fans and media members asking when the big spending from New York Red Bulls will come. The return of Josh Sims and Florian Valot is a beacon of hope in the absence of any new names. Whether these two players will be enough to fill the giant void left by Bradley Wright Phillips’ departure remains to be seen.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography