The USMNT led by Bruce Arena has targeted the New York Red Bulls of MLS as a place to draw a nucleus of talent.
Now for New York Red Bulls, it’s nice and all to have players. In this case, three represent the stars and stripes on the world soccer scene, especially come Russia in 2018.
But for 2017, times will be rough when they lose their number one goalkeeper, team captain, and assist king for portions of the season as the lion’s share of qualifiers will be in the coming months ending in November.
They will either be without their services of midfielders Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty and goalie Luis Robles or have tired facsimiles of themselves which will not help the Red Bulls get to the next level in MLS which in their plans includes a run at an MLS Championship. The next camp is coming up on the 10th in Carson, California. They will test themselves in friendlies against Serbia on the 29 in San Diego, California and Jamaica on February 3 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Kljestan is the obvious choice. He had a stellar MLS season by becoming only the second player to reach twenty assists in a single season. But playing well in qualifiers against minnows St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago proves nothing. Only a win in Azteca Stadium against Mexico will make his loss worth it.
McCarty, the Red Bulls captain, has led the Red Bulls to two Supporters Cups and was fourth best with 225 defensive recoveries in midfield according to stat site Opta. That’s an average of seven per game. His next game with the National team would be his sixth. But that will be as many games we will be missing from the Red Bull midfield.
In goal, the competition is stiff for Luis Robles, who received another invite to this camp since he led MLS with 16 wins and 11 shutouts and may be the only player to benefit from the battles with Tim Howard and NYCFC’s Sean Johnson, who also wants to be number one.
The MLS season is two months away and the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League home-and-home pair against the Vancouver Whitecaps starting February 22. Not to get nationalistic here but when a tournament is advertised by a foreign bank serving multinational corporations, you bring your best keeper with you. Even more, your captain to guard against shenanigans.
So, will the Red Bulls get the best from their threesome with the extra workload, or will international competition make them better for the experience? Time will tell, but the Red Bull table looks a bit empty.