MLS Eastern Conference Preview, Predictions

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New York Red Bulls

Last year’s results: 13-10-11, lost in the conference finals to New England

Head coach: Jesse Marsch, who replaced Mike Petke in January.

Offseason additions: Sacha Kljestan and Felipe Martins

No team had a more hectic offseason than the Red Bulls. Last year’s captain, Thierry Henry, retired shortly after the season ended. Last year’s coach, Mike Petke, was controversially fired in early January. His replacement, Jesse Marsch, brought in a former USMNT regular in Sacha Kljestan. Tim Cahill fled to China. How do you even begin to assess the Red Bulls’ chances for 2015?

Thierry Henry’s absence is going to be noticeable. Henry had 10 goals and 14 assists last year, and a lot of the Red Bulls’ attacks went through him. The task of filling Henry’s giant cleats falls to 24-year-old Felipe Martins, who was acquired in exchange for Ambroise Oyongo and Eric Alexander. Felipe had just three goals and six assists for the Impact in 2014, but his best season was two years prior, under Jesse Marsch. If Felipe can return to that sort of form, with four goals and 10 assists, I think Red Bulls fans would be very happy.

Much has been made about how Henry’s service benefitted Bradley Wright-Phillips, but there are reasons beyond that to be concerned about BWP. The Red Bulls made him a DP after his 27 goals last year, but history hasn’t been kind to big-scoring strikers. Seven players have scored at least 23 goals in an MLS season, and they averaged just 13.57 goals in their next seasons. The Red Bulls must find a way to recreate those goals if BWP has a big drop.

Glass half full: Despite the outrage about his predecessor’s ouster, Jesse Marsch could prove to be a more than adequate replacement. Kljestan and Felipe are solid additions to the line-up, though they can’t replace Henry. If (big if) Red Bull is willing to spend during the summer transfer window, the team could comfortably make the playoffs and roll the dice from there.

Glass half empty: It got overshadowed by their playoff run, but the Red Bulls were mediocre most of last year. BWP had to score a lot, because the defense allowed more goals than any other playoff team. The Red Bulls just sneaked into the playoffs, and without Henry it could be very hard to do the same this year.

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  • Anonymous

    Six teams make the Eastern Conference playoffs this year. As ridiculous as that may sound, even worse is that NYRB will not be one of them. NYCFC has a better chance.

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