RBNY Optimist: Into the Deep (Roster, that is)

rbnyoptimistBY RBNY OPTIMIST
Staff Writer

As the Red Bulls undefeated streak continues (even if it escalates the occurrence of cardiac events throughout the fanbase) and we approach what is sure to be an agonizing three weeks in June without league games, it feels like a really good time to take notice of how our roster has shaped up so far this year.

Sure, there are always complaints about this player or that, but for about as long as I can remember, the “go to” complaint about RBNY has been lack of depth on their roster. Last year, injuries seemed to decimate the team early on, but they were able to make it through using what were basically spare parts to fill in the back line.

Whether this was a spectacular feat of daring or just a lucky run, they did make it through, but you never got the feeling that their roster at the time — filled as it was with aging Europeans — was in any way designed to do anything but try to win “now,” with NOW really meaning before any of these guys get hurt (which didn’t really work, see: Tainio) or lose too many steps (ditto, see: Lindpere).

This year, however, Andy Roxburgh’s tenure started with what sounded like a breath of fresh air to the ears (nose? wow, I just realized that’s an incredibly interesting mixed metaphor. Can something “sound” like a breath of fresh air? Or does it “smell” like a breath of fresh air? Well, anyway, back to my point…) as he pointed out what we’ve known all along: MLS teams rarely succeed without the proper balance and mixture of higher-paid DPs, steady and talented American-born worker bees, and young, up and coming talents of any mix of origins.

Taking a look at how RBNY have handled their undefeated streak, combined with the team they fielded for Wednesday night’s US Open Cup clash, it appears that Roxburgh has largely delivered on his goal. The mix of players used on Wednesday was particularly satisfying as even though no DPs even dressed, the rest of the team, both starters and those who were given a “run out” to fill in, looked particularly solid.

The midfield, especially, has moved from a group that looked hopelessly crowded and confusing at the season’s outset to becoming more like a group of interchangeable pieces that can morph and shape shift as needed to fulfill the tactical demands of any given match. Sure, they were up against a team of college kids, but it was still good seeing Sam, Bustamante and Lade fit in and play aggressive, positive soccer, while Alexander got a quick cameo, and Juninho and Dax were able to share the inside duties.

All this while Steele got the night off and Cahill was jetting halfway around the world.

The back four is in a similar state with a highly respectable crew playing for the Cup, while Olave and Kimura were able to cool their heels and rest up for the Whitecaps. And now, like the cherry on the roster cake, we can look forward to a fit Ryan Meara returning to the mix.

Like the majority of off-seasons since we’ve been cheering on this franchise, last years brought massive changes to our roster. For the first time in many years, however, the change feels thoughtful and measured — driven by the admirable goal of balance and depth to create competition at almost every position — rather than succumbing to the dueling and pointless combination of “win now” and “this guy could get butts in seats”.

It’s difficult to tell cause from effect, but this is enabling Coach Petke (MIKE PETKE!!!) to use far more bodies, more effectively, than Hans Backe ever did. And if you need a refresher, here’s a sampling of the names of those released since Roxburgh took over: Angulo, Arteaga, Hertzog, Tainio, Borrajo, Keel, Palsson, Conde. Some decent players in there? Yes. But were they the best choice to fill a roster spot on THIS team? Nope.

Can we still obsess over who DP3 will be? Or worry about how Petke is going to figure out how to balance Dax, Cahill and Juninho? Sure, go ahead, but once again, the Optimist in me implores you to take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come and the positive outcomes we are seeing as a result.

  • Partake of this @EmpireOfSoccer post In which I take a look at the #RBNY roster and like what I see…http://t.co/yeoKwRpJMZ #OptimismRules

  • Of course you do. RT @RBNYOptimist: I take a look at the #RBNY roster and like what I see…http://t.co/rvLsdkpt1i #OptimismRules