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Red Bulls Preseason Update


The New York Red Bulls have gone to Austria for the next phase of their preseason and plenty of questions about the squad remain unanswered as we sit just five weeks away from the start of the MLS season.

I touched on some of the key questions still to be answered in my column in today’s Herald News. Here are some other things to go over:

Matt Kassel has not joined the team in Austria and will not join the team in South Carolina. In order to protect his NCAA eligibility the Red Bulls will not have him travel anywhere with the senior team. That said, Kassel will have a chance to train with the team once it returns to New Jersey for good. I have stated repeatedly that the club won’t be signing Kassel before the start of the season and that isn’t likely to change. That being said, the Red Bulls like what they have seen so far and want to see him train against first-team players to get a sense of whether he is someone they want to sign.

Jesus Mendoza is a quick left-footed player who spent a large part of his career as a forward but has recently moved into a wing midfield role. He has the tools to be a left winger in a 3-5-2 and will be signed if he has a good camp. Mendoza has been in with some other MLS teams but it should be noted that his asking price has made him a less attractive option for some bargain-hunting clubs. From what I have heard Chicago was still interested but Mendoza decided to take his chance in Red Bulls camp.

So why not Marshall Leonard? He struggled to stand out once he got to California and trained with the first team. The speed is there but the technical ability was a question mark. Ultimately it boiled down to Leonard not being big enough to be a left back in a 3-5-2 or skilled enough to be a left winger in a 3-5-2. In a 4-4-2, Leonard was not better at left back than Kevin Goldthwaite, who has had a strong camp.

Dave Van Den Bergh is still with the team. Yes, I have written repeatedly that Van Den Bergh looks to be the odd man out in Red Bull land but there is a scenario in which he stays. If the club can’t find a reasonable offer for him AND if Van Den Bergh is willing to take a sizeable paycut, he could find a place on the team. Van Den Bergh is regarded as one of the best locker room personalities on the team and let’s face it, even though he’s not quick at all he can still cross and pass the ball well. He could become a valuable bench option. The Red Bulls aren’t just going to dump him without at least offering him a chance to stay. Will he stay for less money? Sources tell me he likes the area and just might be convinced to stick around.

Is the right wing slot up for grabs? It just might be. I know you’re thinking, "How can it be when Dane Richards is on the team?" Well, Richards has never been known as a great crosser and his idea of defending is to clumsily run into opponents on the ball. Not exactly good traits for a winger in a 3-5-2. You know who does cross well and defend well? Hunter Freeman does. He’s been getting long looks on the right wing and just might wind up starting there.

What would that do to Richards? If Osorio cannot find a left wing option during this transfer window you could see Richards there. I say why not? He doesn’t really rely on crossing anyway and he could just as easily take defenders on with speed on the left. It isn’t a completely foreign position for Richards, who saw action on the left wing for Jamaica in recent friendlies (and there were several occasions late last season where Richards floated over to the left flank to take people on).

So what might a starting XI look like if the season started today: Here’s one crack at it:






You could also see Oscar Echeverry in the lineup, which would give it a 3-4-3 look with Reyna in Ubiparipovic’s spot.

With Osorio closing in on a playmaker, you will see Reyna drop into the spot held by Ubiparipovic. That would leave left wing and left back as the top priorities for Osorio on the transfer market.

Share your thoughts on all things Red Bulls-related below.


  1. After all of Ives’s hyping of Kassel, why can’t we just accept that maybe they really don’t want him all that bad?

    Instead of a real nice feel good story, the kid’s had to sign with U-Md. as a fall-back. A team was willing to go to bat for Angulo, so why not Kassel?

    Most likely the club wouldn’t mind having him around, but he knows he’s worth more than MLS is interested in paying and so he’s covering his behind so he doesn’t end up like those guys from Chivas USA (Borja, Solorzano) with no eligibility and no job.

  2. Osorio’s formation seems to be the standard 3-5-2 with wing-backs. This is why Freeman works on its right side – he can attack a bit, and he can defend a bit. I’m not sure if he can bomb up and down the flank as the formation requires, but he’s a fair enough choice regardless. Richards, on the other hand, lacks the defensive qualities of a wing-back and would probably not work in this formation – on the right or on the left. As a matter of fact, he’d be even worse on the left because, as pointed out above, he’d also want to cut inside, destroying the team’s width. The only way I can see him surviving in this team is as a winger in a 4-4-2 or maybe as an emergency choice for wing-back when Freeman and his back-up are injured/suspended.

  3. Yeah, I don’t get the Richards/Freeman debate either. From what I’ve seen of the two players, Richards makes a much better right wing and Freeman makes a better right back.

    Freeman was better at crossing, but worse at taking on defenders 1v1 and is significantly slower than Richards. Last year was Richard’s first in the league, so I would expect to see both his crossing and shooting improve this year, but there is no way to make Freeman faster…

    VDB was good at crossing but it slow and was bad at shooting (and isn’t getting any better). I think a large percentage of his shots either went directly at the goalkeeper or he just didn’t grab the moment when he had it and the opportunity fizzled.

    Moving Dane to the left wing is going to cause him to tend to move inwards rather than keep wide, because he’s a right-footed player. I would much rather NY get a true left wing who has got pace, can shoot and cross and will play wide there than trying to fit Richards into a less than optimal spot.

    I’d like to see Dane stay on the right, Freeman as right back instead of Mendes and Mendoza or another player come in on the left wing. Then there’s just the question of picking up an impactful attacking mid, adding a little more depth and the team is ready to go.

  4. Not two weeks ago Dane Richards was too good to exchange for Conde and was considered untouchable. Today it is questionable if he’ll even keep his spot in the starting eleven.


  5. This looks ok to me, even knowing it’s far from final, and not a whole lot different than last year (in general), so looking forward to some key additions. Freeman did ok stepping into the attacking support last year, so that could be interesting. RBNY were not that far off from turning some draws (and the RSL loss) into wins last year – hopefully JCO will do something to convert some of those, in which case placement and confidence will be higher than last year, (hopefully) translating into a better playoff performance which wasn’t that anyway… some random thoughts, work bl*ws today

  6. I may have missed it but did Gilkerson make the trip to Cali and Europe? Fellow Winthrop alum.

    Also Ives, will you be reporting from Charleston in a couple/few of weeks? I plan to check out all 3 RB matches somehow. Would like to buy you a beer at the fabulous Three Lions Pub to thank you for the great reporting.

  7. Great article Ives. Just one sentence correction; below in caps:

    Kovalenko AND REYNA made OVER $ONE MILLION 200,000 in 2007, too high salarIES for playerS who didn’t provide much to the offense and lost a step from THEIR better days.

  8. Ives,

    If the Center Attacking Midfielder spot falls through and/or is delayed, any thoughts from you on how Reyna will do in this spot?

    Van den Bergh and 2 out of these three — Doe/Kovalenko/Vide — out of the starting lineup…

    the Red Bulls have Mendes/Ubiparipovic/Brunner taking their spots.

    I look forward to seeing what Echeverry can do.

  9. Rob i honestly think you need to wake up and smell the fresh air. Reyna is a shadow of what he once was, and hes eating up a DP spot. I honestly expect absolutely nothing from him, his body cannot physically withstand playing professionally anymore. Its blatantly obvious at this point, anyone not recognizing this is simply living in the past. I really hope he has a good season, but there is nothing to suggest that will happen, or that hes even capable of it anymore.

  10. There’s 5 weeks left before the start of the season and with the exception of Brunner the lineup displayed by Ives is pretty much the same group from last year…

  11. It’s shapping up like another long season. Service to JPA and Jozy will continue to be a problem. Hopefully Reyna will be more productive this year, but even if he is, can he be good enough? I doubt it.

    If we don’t get a CAM who can have a major impact (I’m thinking someone like Amado during his MVP season) we’re in for a disappointing campaign.

    The current team, no matter how you shuffle it, just looks plain mediocre.

  12. this lineup looks like a great way to frustrate jpa and jozy… exactly who is going to get them the ball? on the wings, richards can dribble but not cross, freeman can cross but not dribble… in the center, i don’t think the magic triangle of stammler, ubi, and mr. backpass is going to advance the ball up the field… right now the best offensive option with this lineup is long diagonal balls from parke.

  13. David, I think you might be surprised by Ubi. He showed some flashes last year, is very good on the ball, and might bring a little creativity to a midfield that finds itself lacking in that department.

    If JCO can develop players like his reputation implies, he could be someone that breaks out this year.

  14. It’s worth a try. Richards’ best moment of the season – where he juked 3 times and his cross deflected to Mathis for the record-breaker vs LA – came from the left side.

  15. I’m a big proponent of keeping van den Bergh on this team. He seemed like “one of the guys” all last season, which speaks to what Ives says about him being a good locker room guy.

    Signings notwithstanding (and there will be some), the key to an improved RBNY squad this year is a good year out of Claudio Reyna. No matter where he plays, Reyna will be looked to for organization and leadership. He’s still a good player in my opinion…I’m just not willing to throw away nearly 20 years of world-class soccer. That said, a repeat of last year’s debacle will mean another mediocre season for Metro. Should be interesting.

  16. How much cash does Osorio need to fill out his roster? Doesn’t he currently have $800K-$1MM to play with under the cap? Does VdB really need to take a pay cut to stick with the club?

  17. Apparently Ronnie O has been traded to San Jose… We’d better get summat in return cuz hes our only playmaker…
    Any insight Ives?

  18. I am surprised to see Freeman move up. I really don’t want to see Ubi start.
    Osorio is gonna make some signings so I am not too worried.

  19. I like the idea of Freeman on the right in a 3-5-2 with Richards on the left and VDB as cover for left back and left wing.

    Freeman loves getting into the attack and really does defend well, don’t see why he wouldn’t work out there.

    I’d rather they do that than spend any money on Mendoza.


  20. Folks, I added a note on Dave Van Den Bergh and how he can wind up staying with the team. It isn’t a foregone conclusion that he’s gone at this point, but I don’t see a starting role for him.

  21. Ives you don’t know how glad I was to see Goldwaithe and Leitch out of your starting XI if the season started right now. You had made some previous comments similar to “Leonard was not a better option than Goldwaite who has looked strong” that have made me quite worried. And I didn’t want to put too much stock in their lineup from their previous scrimmage, but I can’t stomach the thought of either holding down our back line especially with only 3 in the back line.

    If Richards did prove to maintain his spot on the right could a:
    lineup be best?

    But to be honest I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over Richards if the lineup is what you proposed. He is exciting and makes things happen, but does tend to get a bit out of control at times. I think Freeman could fit in well there and I’m fine with giving Brunner a shot on the Left. Anything but watching Goldie and Leitch continuing to lose their far-post man all season.

  22. I agree with Amit. Van den Bergh delivers a hell of a cross. Good player to have for depth. Is he a top earner on the team, why the need to get rid of him?

  23. Hopefully we can lock down a playmaker because Reyna in that position only spells disaster. I think Freeman could be good on the right wing, he was dangerous last year when coming forward from the right back spot.

  24. I hope Van den Bergh stays. He’s arguably the best crosser on our team. The assist to Jozy in the last regular season game against L.A. stands out.

  25. Best run down I’ve seen thus far. I’m still fearful of our impact in the first four games after First Kick though. This roster does not look that solid as it does not have the depth needed to go the entire season considering Reyna’s yet to be determined injury. Although I like Ives starting lineup I’m fearful of those that could be subbed (Leitch for example).

  26. Red Bull keeps mentioning a CAM but who would it be? Do you have any hints are are you as clueless as the rest of the fanbase? As of right now I don’t see this team being much better than last year, especially with the loss of Dema. Seems to me its going to be a long season, but that might be the Metrofan in me.


  28. I do like the idea of Richards on the left and Freeman as RWM if we can’t come up with a natural attacking LWM. The line up looks decent as is, but I think that it’s still a longshot saying that the team could go deeper in the playoffs than last year. I guess I’ll just have to be patient to see who JCO brings in – which is tough.

  29. Wow so they appease Freeman and his running ability by putting him on the wing. Interesting.

    Mendes Brunner Parke sounds good in the back. Ubi should be backing up Oscar if he signs with us. Reyna and Stammy would definitely add to our back D (and Reyna loves the 3-5-2 CDM).

    Ive pretty much refused to even speculate on the RBNY lineup till at least early to mid March. Things have to be cleared up quickly so we are sure that the pieces we are currently filling in stop gaps with (Oscar, Mendoza) become fixtures, which will change the complexion of everything.

    Great work Ives.


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