The New England Revolution will face a major in-conference test on Saturday night as they welcome the undefeated New York Red Bulls to Foxboro. To get more on them, we spoke with Lester Townsend of Once A Metro, SB Nation's Red Bulls blog.
TBM: That was a whole lot of offseason turmoil. As if losing Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill weren't enough, Mike Petke was let go in a move that was downright shocking to the rest of the league. Despite all of that, the Red Bulls are now the only undefeated team in MLS. How have they come to such an amazing start?
LT: It's a combination of shrewd transfers, players stepping up, and Luis Robles being fantastic.
The midfield trio of Sacha Kljestan, Felipe, and Dax McCarty is putting up big numbers in completed passes and interceptions. Although they're not completely cohesive yet--Kljestan is running around like a chicken with his head cut off because he's not sure how to handle the attacking midfield position--they're outperforming last year's group (Eric Alexander, McCarty, Peguy Luyindula). McCarty has become a much better passer and is being more disciplined positionally. He used to get pushed out to the wings leaving a big gap in the center of the field in front of the defense, but this year he's staying "home" a lot more.
The center backs were supposed to be a problem in 2015 after Jamison Olave went to Real Salt Lake and Ibrahim Sekagya retired, but fans have been pleasantly surprised. After "big off-season signing" Ronald Zubar went down injured, Matt Miazga and Damien Perrinelle have formed a strong partnership. Perrinelle was brought in last year after a long career in France and didn't play much under Mike Petke. This year he's been a rock. A rock that gets a lot of yellow cards, but a rock nonetheless. Matt Miazga (a US U-20 international) has made a huge leap forward in his development and if he keeps playing this well he'll be in Leipzig by July.
Luis Robles remains the best keeper in Major League Soccer. Feel free to keep ignoring him, though. Klinsmann and the league already do.
TBM: We've been hearing a lot about the Red Bull ownership group, their designs on Leeds United, and the possibility that the Red Bulls might be sold. Has that affected the club in any way, and how do you see those things shaking out in the future?
LT: No comment.
Okay, okay, some comment.
A team in the English Premier League would be a big deal for Red Bull. Probably the biggest jewel on their crown. If they remain in soccer/football, then they will purchase an English team sooner or later. Whether they throw down the cash for Leeds United remains to be seen. Personally, I'm backing the potential Russell Crowe bid.
Has this affected the New York Red Bulls? No. They've already been affected by years of "failure" and having spending blocked by MLS HQ for it to make any difference. Also, Leipzig. Leipzig requires a lot of money.
New York gets a pre-approved budget at the beginning of every season and it's for everything: marketing, player acquisitions, etc. Has this budget gone down? Yeah, probably. This team won't be spending $20 million per season on paychecks anymore. And that's fine, I guess. But the club needs to learn about the existence of DPs in the $750,000 to $2,000,000 range. Of course that would take scouting and, well, it's not like Red Bull has one of the largest and best scouting departments in the world.
Oh, wait, they do... except Leipzig and Salzburg are considered "separate" from New York. Synergy without the actual benefits of synergy. New York is forced to clear everything with ownership in Austria but doesn't get any of the fringe benefits of the connection: players on loan, help from the massive Red Bull scouting department, etc.
I suppose what you're getting at with your question is whether or not Red Bull is going to sell their New York franchise. I'd say not for a very, very long time. They've decided to squeeze as much blood from this stone as possible. Keep roster costs low (thanks to league provided allocation money), use "synergy" to transfer as many young players to Salzburg and Leipzig as you can, bring in plenty of sponsor cash, participate in as many cash grab friendlies as possible, and maybe, just maybe, you might start turning a profit on this snake-bitten, money pit of a team.
This is a lot of rambling, so I guess I'll say, "I don't know." Nobody knows. I doubt even Red Bull knows their plan. People in the Sporting Division of Red Bull GmbH are constantly moving in and out of the department. One person makes a decision and they're gone the next year. Dietrich Mateschitz (owner and founder of Red Bull) makes a decision, but the board does something else.
But, hey, drink your Red Bull, kids.
TBM: Sacha Kljestan is clearly a big factor this season, but who else is making an impact that we may not have heard much about?
LT: Lloyd Sam is having an MVP-level season. The majority of the attack flows through the right side of the field and he is consistently being double teamed. Head coach Jesse Marsch asked him to float inside more which so far has worked, but he remains most dangerous making cutbacks on the wing. The left side of the field is a complete tire fire which makes Sam's job even more difficult. So far he's responded to the challenge.
TBM: Finally let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
FWD - BWP
LM - Grella
CM - McCarty, Kljestan, Felipe
RM - Sam
LB - Miller
CB - Perrinelle, Miazga
RB - Duvall
GK - Robles
Score: 3-0 New England