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Red Bulls Notes: ‘Big’ summer move possible; Grella impressing; and more

Jesse Marsch New York Red Bulls 11

Photo courtesy of Andy Mead/MLS



CHAMPIONSGATE, Fla. — It is growing increasingly likely that the New York Red Bulls will start the 2015 season with just one Designated Player on their books, but things could change as soon as this summer if club deems it necessary to “make a splash.”

The Red Bulls have been synonymous with fielding big-name DPs for at least half a decade now, but more of those type of marquee players have left New York this winter than were brought in. Thierry Henry said goodbye to the club in December before announcing his retirement and Tim Cahill was released this past Monday, leaving Bradley Wright-Phillips as the lone DP player on New York’s roster.

There currently is not much wiggle room on the roster for the Red Bulls to add pieces before the start of the season, with depth players the most likely to fill out some of the final available spots. The club is, however, planning to leave one slot open in case it needs to make an impact move when more players become available during the summer transfer window.

“We’re still kind of looking around at particular different pieces to put in and I think we’re also leaving room so that if we need to make a big move in the summer that we’re going to,” head coach Jesse Marsch told SBI. “I think it’s kind of like this is the beginning of the process. We feel like we have a lot already in this team.

“We’ve made some big moves obviously to get some important guys here and I think along with the established guys that are already here, that’ve done well the last two years, we’re just trying to get the thing moving and then figure out, at the midpoint, what else we need to add.”

New York has been criticized for not spending on a big-name player this offseason while the LA Galaxy and Toronto FC have brought over the likes of Steven Gerrard and Sebastian Giovinco. But the Red Bulls have a history of signing DPs in or closer to the summer, with Wright-Phillips and Claudio Reyna the only two of the club’s seven Designated Players to agree to deals during the winter months.

Here are more notes from the Red Bulls’ camp:


While there might not be many roster slots left, one trialist who is making a good case for himself is Mike Grella.

Grella has come into New York’s preseason camp sharp and has shown a nose for goal that could be useful to the club. Improving the 28-year-old’s chances of landing a deal is that Wright-Phillips is currently the only forward on the roster, and the Red Bulls’ brass has stated repeatedly that adding depth at that spot is on the to-do list before the start of the campaign.

“His mentality of being here and working every day has been fantastic and then he’s been scoring goals. That’s the best way to describe it,” Marsch said of Grella. “He’s been sharp and alert and fit and a lot of different things, but in the end, as a forward, the byproduct has all been that he’s scoring goals.

“That’s a good sign for him and I think he’s made an impression on a lot of people, not just me, and I think he’s done well.”

Marsch added that Grella has joined the Red Bulls with the hopes of finding a permanent home. Grella – a Glen Cove, New York native – has bounced around different clubs throughout the world since leaving Duke University in 2008 and is looking for some stability for he and his family.

He will give himself a good shot at that if he continues to perform as he has thus far.

“Mike has flexibility. He can play up top, he can play out wide,” said Marsch. “For right now, I think he’s been a very pleasant surprise.”


Ibrahim Sekagya might want to be a head coach at some point down the road, but that holds no bearing on whether he returns to the club for good in 2015.

Sekagya is currently trialing with the Red Bulls despite being a regular contributor during the past season-and-half, and his future remains murky at best. New York has reportedly been considering using the veteran as a player/coach this season, but Marsch said he is looking at Sekagya from a player standpoint right now and nothing more.

“I know he wants to coach in the future, but I’m just trying to evaluate where he is as a player and how he fits into this group,” said Marsch. “He had a strong end of the last year, and now I’m just trying to figure out what it will mean this year for the way that we’re playing and the group that we have.

“I think he’s such a smart player that I think it’s obvious he’ll be a good coach when he’s done, but for right now it’s just focusing on him as a player.”

Sekagya has his work cut out for him if he is to earn another contract. The Red Bulls have five centerbacks on their roster right now, though Armando could be heading for the exit door in the coming days or weeks.


The question as to what Connor Lade’s best position remains a relevant one.

Lade shone throughout his rookie season in 2012 as a fullback and wide midfielder for then-head coach Hans Backe, but was seldom used in the two years that followed. Lade juggled different positions under Backe’s successor, Mike Petke, when he did see the field the past two seasons, serving in wide spots before experimenting as a central midfielder.

New coach Marsch has weighed in on the debate, but it still is not all that clear as to what position is better suited for Lade.

“I think he’s probably best at outside mid, but I like him in the center of midfield, too,” said Marsch. “The issue is we have a lot of depth there. Using him at outside back is probably the best way to use him. I think he’s smart, I think he’s sharp, I think he works his ass off.

“There’s not many qualities that I don’t like about Connor, so I’m really excited to work with him and we’re going to make him better.”


Who do you think the Red Bulls should potentially go after this summer as a DP? Consider Grella a lock to make the squad at this point? Expecting Sekagya to earn a contract?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Petke should consider himself fortunate to be gone, his legacy intact, because this is a thoroughly mediocre team now – no good wingers, a second rate defence, only one decent forward. And with angry fans to boot, it could be a rough season.

    • Sam is a pretty good winger. And they played all last year with just one striker. I will go out in a limb and say they will finish with more points than they had last year.

    • Sigh;

      BWP played up top alone last year
      Sam is one the best wingers in the league.
      Have a True CAM now
      Sacha > Alexander
      Defense looks improved. imo Zubar + AJB > Olave + Sekagya

      Only “weak” area is left wing, but Stolz might play a similar role as Henry did last year.

  2. 1 DP 🙂 not 2 dps…. What in the world is red bull thinking. It’s freaking NJ/NY and they don’t want 3 dps.
    Garber sell this team. When is their MLS contract over? I’m not going to mention cosmos but red bull needs to get out or give them a reality check.
    If Atlanta takes the name Atlanta empire before a NJ/NY team, it will be really sad for MLS. Same thing with LA2, they definitely need the Hollywood word in their team name before some NASL or uslpro team takes it. Look at texas, Dallas and Houston have incompetent soccer team names for a state with so much history and craziness.

  3. Wow, Mike Grella is a name I haven’t heard in a while. (Mostly I remember him from using Leeds Utd back on FIFA 09.)

    It’ll be interesting to see if he makes the team. He’s had a lot of stops over the past 7 years, but not a lot of goals.

  4. Yevgeniy I agree 100% I smell SPIN all the way here. Clearly RB has plenty of $ in the tank for all the reasons you laid out However, also clearly is a TOTAL RELUCTANCE on their behalf to make any real LT commitments. They are playing with band aid solutions and hoping RB fans buy into it? Both Ali and Marsh have ONLY a year contract No Sasha is not a DP so they only have BWP as a DP so “show me the money RB” or sell already, and quit B/S everyone??

    • This is a lame duck year…no question. Who signs on to a 1 year contract? This is a caretaker admin. Team is sold by next season.

  5. Connor Lade’s best position is on loan at a minor league team, like last season. I’m sure he’s a nice guy but I don’t know what games Franco was watching in 2012 when he says Lade “shone.” He was pretty bad, which is why he barely saw the field the last two seasons. I don’t understand fans’ fascination with this guy.

    • +1

      I wonder if the guys at the lower end of the salary scale, like this, realize that a free market means their spots are going to better players when the dust settles?

    • We agree on this one. Lade shows a lot of heart and occasionally flashes some speed, but he isn’t particularly skilled on or off the ball and he is undersized as a defender. Whatever good moments he may have had, they are long in the past.

  6. I don’t get. According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, they should have tons of room under the cap even without taking into account the new CBA. They shed 2 DP salaries, a very high Olave salary (+allocation they got for him), Eckersley, Convey, Sene, Meara, Armando, Alexander and replaced them with Kljestan (lets assume DP cap hit), Jean-Baptiste, Felipe, and Zizzo. I am leaving off a few smaler moves on both sides. Net-net, they should have a much lower cap hit compared to 2014. And then you add expected $1mm salary cap increase. How can they not have room to add several solid players?


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