(Mike Lawrence / Sportsday Wire)
The New York Red Bulls are entering this season looking to build on their Supporters’ Shield win from last season.
They won the Supporters’ Shield with the best record in the regular season, but lost the Eastern Conference Finals to the Columbus Crew. The Red Bulls far exceeded expectations and relished the role of underdog.
Red Bulls Captain Dax McCarty said of keeping their “chip on the shoulder” mentality from last season, “Yeah, we have that same mentality. We had a meeting earlier today and I told the guys, I said, ‘Look. If we lose that mentality, then we lose a lot of the things that make us good.’ And so we’re in kind of the same situation we were last year. I think obviously this year we’ll have a little bit more respect going into the season, I think teams know, you know, we’re going to be a tough team to play against, I think teams know that we have talent, but I still think that there’s a small part of us that needs to feel that we’re being overlooked. We don’t have any big-name stars, we have a lot of guys who you consider journeymen, or you consider them – you know, they played in lower-levels in Europe or whatever people may think – but we don’t have any big superstars here, I don’t think we’re going to have any big egos, so the only way that we’re going to be successful is if every single player on this roster contributes and the only way that’s possible is for guys to know that, you know, teams are going to have more talent than us but as long as we continue to have the mentality that we have a chip on our shoulder, and we should make sure that we prepare for every game like that, because as far as I’m concerned if we do lose that we lose a lot of the things that make us good.
McCarty said of the Red Bulls’ continuity, “It does help a lot, to have guys back that are familiar with our system and familiar with how we do things here. But I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I mean, just because I wear the captain’s armband doesn’t mean I’m the only leader on this team. We have seven or eight guys that have just as much say or standing as me and those guys are just as important. So having all those guys back, making sure everyone on the roster knows their role and knows their job, that’s not just for me – that’s for all the leaders on this team.
“This year, everyone has to expect a little bit more out of each other. So I expect a little bit more out of myself, I expect myself to be a better leader, a better teammate, and I expect to have a better season and I know that my teammates are going to hold me accountable to that and I’m going to do the same as their captain. I have to make sure to hold people accountable, I have to make sure that guys are not getting complacent – that’s a big word amongst us, we don’t want to get complacent just because we had a little bit of success last year.”
Red Bulls Goalie Luis Robles said of the coming season, “I think a lot of things about this season. First thing is, I think a lot of these guys, after such a long preseason, are excited to be out there, be back on the field, be back at Red Bull Arena. And the second thing is we have some unfinished business with the way the season ended last year. We got so close to achieving our goal of being in the MLS Cup Final, yet we fell a little bit short. So from our standpoint, we had a long winter to think that over, and we know that it’s going to be a long road back, and there’s going to be unforeseeable circumstances. We’re going to lean heavily on who we are, and who our identity is, and that’s a team that is a family. One of our major strengths that can’t be overlooked is our locker room. We have a bunch of good guys here, hardworking guys, honest guys. It’s those things, those character traits, that are going to allow us to be successful this year.”
Robles said of the differences in this year’s team from last year’s, “We have a lot of guys from last year, so that continuity is going to be there, and I think that’s going to be a strength for us, it’s going to be something that we’re going to be able to rely on. Experience is something that we may not have had a lot of last year, across the board, but with that season now in the books, we can lean on that experience when things get tough, understanding that there’s going to be a certain mentality that we need to develop. A championship mentality. I think that with not only the leadership we have, but with the coaching, that’s something that is possible. I’m really optimistic about not only developing that, but using that to be a formidable force going into the season, and hopefully deep into the playoffs.”
Robles said of opening the season at home, “I think we’re just anxious to start the season. Obviously the friendly confines of Red Bull Arena is going to make it that much more special, being in front of our fans, who I know have had a long winter waiting for us to get back on the field. From that standpoint it’s going to be great, and we’re looking forward to it.”
On whether the Red Bulls will have the same “chip on the shoulder” mentality, Robles said, “To an extent. I think what’s happened is it will evolve into something bigger. We want to maintain that mentality because that’s going to allow us to remember that we have to fight for every single inch. That no one’s going to just give us something. There’s also a target on our back now that we’re the regular season champion. Having that piece of silverware, that Supporters’ Shield, we’re not necessarily going to have this narrow mind of “we need to defend that” because not only do we want to defend that, but we want to win more.”
Red Bulls forward Sacha Kljestan said of their motivation from last season, “I think maybe when we get to the playoffs we’ll start to think about last year’s playoff series and how we can draw on that, but we also have to remember that nine seconds into a game we went down, 1-0, and we don’t want to do that ever again, whether that’s in a friendly, or a regular season game, or in the Open Cup or anything like that, so the concentration always has to be there, the mentality always has to be there, we have to know that any type of mistakes can be punished at the highest level. Overall we draw from that series for sure, but we’re going to take everything we did last season into account in order to be better this season.”
Kljestan said of squad rotation and young players, “Yeah, I think we’ve said pretty much from day one that Sean Davis is the guy that, at any team in MLS he’d probably be a starter. It’s unfortunate for him that we have such a good midfield, but he’s been pushing guys every day in training, he comes to training with the best attitude, he works hard, and he’s going to have a lot more time to play this season and I’m sure he’s going to shine.
“There’s more than just him, we’ve got a lot of guys. Jesse has talked about even the four guys at the outside back position, there’s going to be rotation there. There’s probably six, to seven or eight of us in the attack that can only play in four spots. There’s going to a lot of rotation, and look, I’m the type of guy that wants to play every game, but I also know that this rotation is going to help the team in the long run, and maybe even help me personally in the long run of this season and in my career. I think it will be a good thing for us to have that depth.”