Gut Check: Making sense of the 2020 Red Bulls roster ahead of final preseason matches

After the final whistle blew and echoed through Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. There was this stillness over the field and the players of the New York Red Bulls. It was clear that many of the players on the pitch would not be back by the way they postured; the way they embraced one another after a long and disappointing season.

Regardless of the posture or mood, there was a clear picture of what needed to be done.

When the end-of-year contract decision day came around; it was a faint silver lining ray of hope in an otherwise dark realization of what was to occur. The team was far from gutted, but the feeling of loss was still great. Players that were made into a household name; given a cold and alienating treatment, unbefitting of the time and sacrifices that they put forward to the organization. Then to top it off, the offseason departures of Michael Amir Murillo, and Kemar Lawrence.

Big positions to fill, but not impossible to supplement and cover the gaps. However, despite a few signings, it’s not what was expected. The left-back and goalkeeping positions are two large glaring roster holes. The tactics are still unclear, but from the pre-season reports, it seems the Red Bulls deployed a 4-2-2-2 formation, while Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero-Gamarra continued to rehabilitate his injury.

The reality is, until March 1st, 2020 vs FC Cincinnati, the line-up and the tactics could very well change. That uneasiness, that doubt, is something unfamiliar in recent years.

The Strikers

Expect Brian White to lead the line, that is unless Mathias J├Ârgensen is ready to step up. While Tom Barlow certainly added a great dynamic to the attack, there’s still much more growth needed out of him

Wingers

Josh Sims is back, fighting for minutes with, a well-rested, fully healed, Florian Valot, and Omir Fernandez. However, expect Sims to shuffle to the left side for fresher legs if Daniel Royer comes off first. Alex Muyl had a good start to 2019, but fell into obscurity and out of favor for the most part. Don’t expect Ben Mines to be a name you’ll see often in the 18 either, Mines comes off an injury-ridden year, and will likely play in USL.

Attacking Midfield

Kaku used to be alone; the main catalyst in the attack and was sorely missed when injured because of his executions and ability to place the ball where he wanted. Jared Stroud joins him now, coming off a 15 goal, 8 assist season in the USL Championship. Stroud, however, may be used more often for depth at the left wing position rather than centrally.

Defensive Midfield

Cristian Casseres Jr. has cemented himself as a prime starter at this position. The chips fall on Sean Davis, Marc Rzatkowski, and newcomer Chris Lema to establish who will take the other positions.

Defense

Aaron Long, and Tim Parker may not have had the greatest year in 2019, they have to be a lock at center back without a shadow of a doubt. At the right-back, Kyle Duncan ended 2019 as the clear choice, but will battle newcomer Mandela Egbo for first and second on the depth chart. Reece Buckmaster still needs a lot more time and experience, but may be used as a depth option on either flank. Left-back, the biggest and possibly most glaring hole in the entire roster. Amro Tarek might play a role there. Or new homegrown signee John Tolkin, and draftee Patrick Seagrist.

Goalkeeper

The other hole, the biggest question mark of them all. Who steps into the shoes of the ‘Iron Man’?

One would suspect it’s Ryan Meara, especially with the “next man up” mentality. However, Meara is not convincing enough to take on that responsibility. In 5 years, Meara has played only 75 games and has missed 39 games overall due to injury, two times due to an injury to the knee. Expectations will be high for Meara. New signing David Jensen is joining the fray, but his stats are a bit out of wack and shouldn’t be taken at face value, much more insight into how he melds with the team is needed. Kendall McIntosh also joined the club, but he will most likely play in USL.

The Expected Line-Up

Where to begin here? Will it be 4-2-2-2, 4-3-3, or 4-2-3-1? It’s anyone’s guess. Forgetting with what they’re experimenting with at this moment, this should be their expected lineup come March 1st.

Experimenting 4-1-3-2

Purely an experimental line-up with a defense that would have to be at their absolute best.

Photo by Bill Twomey Photography

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