Photo by Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports
By FRANCO PANIZO
HANOVER, N.J. — From Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan to Rafa Marquez and David Beckham, there’s always been a good amount of star power on display in recent years when the New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy have collided.
Sunday’s showdown at Red Bull Arena won’t have that. Partly because of an injury to Galaxy forward Robbie Keane, and partly because of New York’s lack of a big-name player.
The Red Bulls are off to a hot and undefeated start in MLS this season, but the club has done so with an approach that differs from that of years past. Instead of surrounding one or two star individuals with a core of blue-collared players, New York is now relying on a team concept that requires everyone to do their part.
The results have so far been impressive – the Red Bulls have gone 3-0-2 to remain the only unbeaten team in MLS – but the absence of a star individual still has some fans yearning for a big-name Designated Player. New York brass has said in recent months that it is open to signing someone of that caliber in the summer, but the club is still not sure whether it will or not because of how well it has performed thus far.
“We’re still evaluating,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch told SBI on Saturday, feet away from visiting former DP Juan Pablo Angel. “I would say that, for me, the main focus is that we really like this group. If we add to it, we don’t want to add to it just because you have a DP spot or you have the ability to add. We want to make sure that everything we do here is very calculated, and regardless of it’s a DP or any player that comes in here, we want it to be the right fit.
“We want it to add to what we have because, like I said, we feel really good about the group we have and the way we’re playing and who we are. It’s a delicate balance, because you can sometimes subtract by adding, and we want to make sure that we add by adding.”
New York does have a Designated Player on their books right now in forward Bradley Wright-Phillips. But while Wright-Phillips is a productive player, he’s not the type that draws the big bright lights or brings out fans to the stadium in droves in the way that an Henry, Donovan or Beckham did or that future Galaxy DP Steven Gerrard likely will.
Still, the Red Bulls are not worrying too much these days about filling seats with the allure of a big-name player. Not even as neighboring New York City FC touts Spanish striker David Villa and awaits the arrival of English legend Frank Lampard.
The emphasis is simply on fielding a winning team. Yes, New York might be a city that’s synonymous with star power, but the Red Bulls could very well go through the entire 2015 season without having much of it.
“Obviously we have the ability to (add DPs), but that’s not the main focus,” said Marsch. “The main focus is to continue to round out this team and this organization in a way that makes us better.”