After a frantic week of MLS transfers, the New York Red Bulls must ascertain whether Fabián Espíndola, Jámison Olave and Kosuke Kimura can help deliver the first title in franchise history.
With less than a month in office, new sporting director Andy Roxburgh has left his mark on the team. A multitude of trades have been completed in hopes of bringing the MLS Cup to New York.
Even in the offseason, the Red Bulls manage to entertain.
On that same night, the Red Bulls traded allocation money and the homegrown rights for defender Bryan Gallego to the Portland Timbers in exchange for defender Kosuke Kimura and a second-round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
That’s three bold moves in the span of four days. Netting 57 points and clinching the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference is not enough.
Roxburgh is determined to build a championship-caliber team.
The question is: What do these trades mean for the 2013 version of the Red Bulls?
The trading of Le Toux comes as no surprise.
After failing to make an impact (one goal in 708 minutes), the Frenchman was relegated to the bench for seven of the team’s final eight matches.
The Red Bulls have a plethora of talented strikers (Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper and Espíndola), so Le Toux was expendable for New York.
That was a sentiment the Frenchman welcomed:
"The only team I wanted to play for was Philadelphia." --Le Toux #DOOP— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) December 7, 2012
New York did not improve by trading Le Toux. It didn't worsen either.
It’s the trade with Real that is the focal point for Roxburgh’s new direction.
Last season, the Red Bulls back four was more patchwork than anything.
Former head coach Hans Backe started 16 different defensive combinations in 34 matches. New York failed to start the same back four more than five times all season.
The acquisition of Olave was crucial for the Red Bulls. If healthy, the 2010 Defender of the Year will bring stability and leadership to New York's back four.
The Colombian international started 119 games and clocked 10,320 minutes during his four-year tenure with the Claret and Cobalt—more than any Red Bull defender on the 2012 roster.
The other half of the trade with Real is good news for Henry, but bad news for Cooper.
Henry has another dynamic forward to pair with up top. Espíndola recorded 19 goals with 10 assists the last two seasons.
Unfortunately for Cooper, rumors surrounding New York indicate he is likely to be traded before the 2013 season (via soccerbyives.net).
All of the allocation money the Red Bulls have recently acquired would help pay Cooper’s $500,000 salary in 2013. But with Espíndola's arrival, that's a hefty price for someone who will see the bench.
Remember, not even 18 goals was enough to give Cooper the start in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals against DC United.
As for Kimura, his acquisition signifies the end of Roy Miller in New York.
Miller was a fixture in New York's defense since his arrival in 2010 (71 starts).
But after being subbed off in the 36th minute of the Red Bulls' 3-2 victory over the Timbers on Aug. 19, Miller recorded only two minutes for the remainder of the season.
The development of Conor Lade and the arrival of Kimura means more bench time for Miller, should he remain with the team.
So, what will New York’s starting XI look like in 2013?
That question is tough to answer. It is not known if Roxburgh has finished overhauling the roster.
But based on the current crop of players, here is a potential starting XI:
Goalkeeper: Ryan Meara
Defenders: Heath Pearce, Rafa Marquez, Jámison Olave, Kosuke Kimura
Midfielders: Lloyd Sam, Tim Cahill, Dax McCarty, Brandon Barklage
Forwards: Thierry Henry, Fabián Espíndola
A note to the Rafa Marquez cynics (myself included): It's time to place a moratorium on the "Rafa bashing." All signs point to his return in 2013 (via empireofsoccer.com).
The Red Bulls have a formidable starting XI, but no head coach. It’s time Roxburgh addresses that vacancy.
Someone has to make sense of all this madness.
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