by Rachael Mesnik
February 28, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
The 2016 MLS Season was incredible for the New York Red Bulls-FC. They emerged at the top of the Eastern conference table with 57 points in 34 season games, third on the MLS table three points away from the leaders FC Dallas, and a point behind the second-place Colorado Rapids. Among other achievements, NYRB FC had the highest goal difference in the MLS (+7) with forward Bradley Wright-Phillips winning the golden boot and Sacha Kljestan leading in assists tally.
NYRB FC had many big games last season including the thrilling 7-0 win over New York City FC on May 21st , with two goals from both Bradley Wright-Phillips and midfielder Dax McCarthy. Other great games were the 4-0 and 4-1 wins against FC Dallas and New York City FC respectively.
The team had a 16-match wining streak from July 10th to the end of the season. All this excited steams from the hard loss at the beginning of the 2016 with a 3-0 loss to Montreal Impact and a four-game losing streak between April 1st and April 16th. The Red Bulls had only one win in the first seven games of the season.
The Red Bulls failed to progress past the Conference semifinals after losing twice against Montreal Impact: 1-0 away and 1-2 at home making a 1-3 aggregate score. They were also knocked out of the Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup by Philadelphia Union FC by losing 2-1.
However, the Red Bulls had impressive results in the CONCACAF Champions League having two wins during the home games against Antigua and Alianza and two draws at away matches against the same opponents. This left NYRB FC at the top of the group with 8 points; 3 points clear the first runners up Alianza.
For the club, no loss was bigger than the deal of Dax McCarthy to Chicago Fire. He performed a pivotal role in the central midfield. Head coach Jesse Marsch says he already has trades in the works for replacing Tyler Adams and Sean Davis.
Other massive losses include that of right back Chris Duvall and central defender Ronald Zubar who were both set free to make way for the new rising talent.
The club also let go of Midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips, Winger Omer Damari, and goalkeeper Kyle Reynish this winter.
Unlike most MLS teams, NYRB FC was not active in the international market to replenish their squad. Instead, the Red Bulls aimed at promoting players from the USL title-winning Red Bull II squad into the first-team squad. Among the players to be promoted to the senior team include Tyler Adams, Derrick Etienne Jr., Center back Aaron Long, and Forward Brandon Allen. Some of the new acquisitions include Michael Murillo a center back, who will join the Red Bulls on loan, Cameroonian defender Hassan Ndam, Zeiko Lewis, Arun Basuljevic, and Evan Louro.
For the coaching staff, the Red Bulls didn't make changes, and Jesse Marsch remains as the head coach with Carl Robinson, Tab Ramos, and Alexis Lalas taking the assisting roles.
The Red Bulls are expected to have a successful season this year. However, the time they'll take to recover from the loss of Dax McCarthy will play a vital role in this season's title campaign. Sacha Kljestan remains the Red Bulls' key player this season. Pundits predict that the Red Bulls will emerge second in the Eastern Conference for the 2017 season. However, Las Vegas odds for predicting the winner still portray the Red Bulls as an unquestionable title contender.