The New York Red Bulls played the Columbus Crew in a midweek preseason game. Coming off a tie against Houston Saturday night, head coach Chris Armas decided to go with an almost full squad rotation.
The biggest names in the starting lineup were that of Josh Sims, Marc Rzatkowski and David Jensen. Jensen played the full 90 and although he let up a goal in the first minute, he did make a statement about challenging for the starting spot.
Sims was not as influential in the first half as one might expect, but since he only had one half to play before being subbed out by Kaku, fans are left questioning where his true position lies, as an outside midfielder or an attacker.
After two preseason tournament games are fans any closer to understanding what the Red Bull starting XI will look like?
Well there are a few answers. Aaron Long, who ironically has not played a minute for Red Bulls in 2020, definitely is a starter. Kaku, who is playing great through preseason, is a starter and Daniel Royer, 2019 Season MVP, is there as well. The picture is beginning to take shape as different players are making the most of their time on the pitch.
Fighting for the start
The tough decisions on who will start game days are ultimately up to the staff. The players have to continually fight for their spots, even the players mentioned above. However, it is clear to see which players are winning those battles.
Tom Barlow, Mathias Jørgensen, and Brian White are all fighting for to start next to Royer up top in the new 4-2-2-2. After the match against the Crew, the competition for the spot on March 1st seems to be between Jørgensen, and White. Jørgensen keeps getting into fantastic positions but is not finding the net. White, who played the least of the three in Tuscon so far, continues to be a more ruthless opportunist.
Marc Rzatkowski, Sean Davis, and Christian Casseres Jr. are similarly battling it out in the center of the park. Armas has a tough call here. All three players are talented, and worthy of the starting midfield role. It would not be surprising if there was a regular rotation of these three throughout the season, based on tactics, opponents, and/or rest.
At wingback, Rece Buckmaster, Kyle Duncan, Patrick Seagrist, John Tolkin, and Mandela Egbo are competing for two spots. While fans await to see Egbo in action, the rest of the wingbacks have had their shot so far.
Buckmaster took the start tonight in a good showing, with an ability to get up the field and holding his own defensively. Duncan had a very solid showing in the second half against the Crew, and holds the edge for now. Tolkin struggled early against the Crew, but found the game more in the second half with greater support around him. Seagrist seems more ready to start at this moment, but that may change during the season. There are no real answers just yet here, and fans should be ready for a fight on the right and left beyond the start of the season.
There are other positions that are up for grabs, but these are some of the bigger questions for Armas and his staff to consider. Saturdays game against Sporting Kansas City will give Armas and fans a clearer picture of the team’s future.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography