Schott: Red Bulls Built A Contender, For 2015 And Beyond

(Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch – Photo by Mike Lawrence)

The New York Red Bulls did not reach their ultimate goal of winning the MLS cup, but their season was a tremendous success.

They were eliminated from the MLS Cup playoffs this Sunday, as they lost the Eastern Conference Finals by a 2-1 aggregate to the Columbus Crew. They beat DC United in the first round 2-0 on aggregate.

They won their second Supporters’ Shield in three years and reached the Eastern Conference Finals for a second straight season.

The Red Bulls entered this season with little to no expectations, after international superstar Thierry Henry retired and Mike Petke was sacked in a surprise dismissal in January.

Jesse Marsch overcame a lot of early adversity, such as hearing a lot of boos on opening day and many doubts about his succeeding Petke.

After leading the team in the second half of the season from on the brink of a playoff spot to winning the Supporters’ Shield for best record, Marsch received MLS Coach of the Year honors.

Marsch established a very up-tempo system that fit the personality of his team, led by forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, and forwards Lloyd Sam and Sacha Kljestan.

Wright-Phillips had 17 goals and seven assists, Sam had 10 goals and seven assists, and Kljestan had a team-leading 14 assists and eight goals.

The biggest surprise of the Red Bulls’ season was the emergence of midfielder Mike Grella, who was nominated for MLS Newcomer of the Year honors. Grella had nine goals and seven assists.

Luis Robles won the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award, as he put up teams records in wins with 18 and shutouts with nine and has a franchise-record 28 career shutouts.

The nucleus of this group will be back next season, and with young players, like Sean Davis, Frankin Castellanos and Tyler Adams on their USL team and Academy, they have a system that will keep this team a contender for a long time. The Red Bulls saw a glimpse of what they can do, when Davis scored twice and Adams and Castellanos had a goal each in a 4-1 win in their friendly with English Premier League side Chelsea.

Marsch said of what this year meant for the Red Bulls both on and off the field, “I think there’s a new direction. It’s obvious to everyone with the way we play and the commitment of the organization. You can start with Mr. (Dietrich) Matescjhitz but you can talk about Oliver Mintzlaff, Marc De Grandpre, Ali Curtis, myself, and down to the players, we’re all united. We’re all moving forward in the same direction. This is clearly something unique in our league with its own identity. We’re in the initial stages.

“Our goal is to put ourselves in these kinds of games and situations every year, to grow every year, to invest in our youth and youth academy, and create something that has such a big identity that everyone in the community wants to attach themselves to it.

“The first year, in that sense, has been an overwhelming success. If we can make that kind of progress, year in and year out, we’ll create something that I think can be really special,” said Marsch.

On Monday, Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis announced that Marsch will be back next season. “Jesse’s under contract with the Red Bulls, he’ll be back next year. We’re looking forward to him being back next year, he had a great season, as did a lot of our staff, as did our players, so Jesse will be back next year. I’m not going to get into the details regarding his contract, but he’ll be back next year. We’re happy to have him and he had a fantastic season,” said Curtis.

Red Bulls captain and midfielder Dax McCarty said of the season, “I think if you look at the season as a whole, you could say it was a success. Obviously a new system, new coaches, new players. Nobody really expected too much from us. I thought we gave a pretty good account of ourselves all year. To fail in the playoffs again in the two biggest games where we just weren’t good enough…we just didn’t play well.”

McCarty said of keeping the squad intact for next season, “I think it’s important. We proved that we’re a good team in MLS and had success. Winning the Supporters’ Shield certainly says something, but the way that we play and the system that we play, definitely took a little time to get used to. This is MLS, things change all the time. This locker room is going to be different next year…hopefully, we can keep a lot of the same players around, that’d be nice, but I’m not on that side of the fence.”

Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles said of the season as a whole, “It’s difficult to assess right now because there are a lot of emotions. I came in 2012, we lost in the first round to DC (United), 2013, we won our first piece of silverware (Supporters’  Shield), unfortunately we don’t get past the first round, but it looks like we’re building. Last year, we’re really one goal away from getting to the final, and we don’t have any silverware, and this year we’re one goal from the final and we got silverware, so I feel like we’re heading in the right direction. This offseason will be good for us because we’ll be able to add a few pieces to an already strong roster.”

Red Bulls midfielder Lloyd Sam said of the season, “Definitely a successful campaign. Definitely a success. We got a new coach, a new regime and a new style of play and we win – over the year, we;re the best team on stats, so that’s got to be successful.”

Sam said of losing to Columbus feeling the same as losing the Eastern Finals to New England a year ago, “It feels similar. It feels very similar, but at least – I guess we can say we got the Supporters’ Shield this year – but it feels similar.”

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