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New York Red Bulls didn’t look too good in their first match without their Gold Cup participants. Five keys are necessary to adjust. 

The New York Red Bulls will be without four of their players for at least three more weeks due their international duty at the Gold Cup. Starting defenders Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence, Amir Murillo, and midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr. are the several in question.

They will miss at least two more games, the club’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup opener versus New England Revolution and a home league match against Chicago Fire.

The Metros already spent one outing without their Gold Cup participants and failed to impressed. They blew up a 2-0 lead to Philadelphia Union and lost the match, 3-2.

Based primarily on this match, and how the season has been going, here are five things New York needs while some of their players are taking part in the Gold Cup:

1. Play five at the back again

Most of RBNY’s absent players are defenders and their backups have not been performing. Going back to last game versus the Union, Connor Lade got beat twice on the line in the span of a minute which resulted in two goals.

Although he had an assist last match, fullback Kyle Duncan hasn’t been excelling this season either. The Brooklyn native often loses the ball, leaving the defense in tight situations.

One thing that might help the team’s weakness is to go back to playing with five defenders.

New York played with five at the back from April 27 to May 8 and won two out of three games while conceding four goals.

Another positive that could come from playing with five defenders is that rookie Sean Nealis will be on the pitch for more learning experience and won’t be as exposed as he was when he was playing in a four-man backline.

Nealis showed potential in training camp and in his first MLS games but the promising start of his career turned into a nightmare in the last three games he played in. The New Yorker conceded three goals in his last three appearances, including two penalties.

Perhaps a five-man backline is what Nealis needs to find his comfort in the MLS.

2. Play Muyl as a fullback over Lade

Going back to Lade’s struggles this season, the New Jersey native is a hustler, no doubt about that; but sadly, his level hasn’t been where the Red Bulls need it to be. Perhaps it’s time to give someone else a shot at his position while starting left back Kemar Lawrence is out.

Alex Muyl’s primary position is midfield but can play fullback as well. Muyl is also a tireless runner. New York is playing the 11th placed team in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday at home, it’s the perfect game to see how Muyl will handle a full 90 playing as a defender.

The only problem with that is Muyl is right-footed, he might not be comfortable playing on the left.

3. Start Omir Fernandez

Who’s going to play right wing while Muyl is in defense? One of the most promising 20-year-olds in the MLS, Omir Fernandez. The Bronx native has looked electrifying in his first professional season. He’s a confident player who’s not afraid to charge at players. And he’s a smart fellow.


Despite only starting two MLS matches, Fernandez is the third top scorer of the team and the fifth assist leader. He only saw the pitch for 49 minutes in the Red Bulls’ last three games. Fernandez is a player who could’ve made the U.S. U-20 World Cup roster if he saw more action at the beginning of the season.

Other NYC Teams

He needs to start not only for his own development but also for the good of the team, Fernandez has been the hottest winger in RBNY’s roster in the past three weeks. No other wingers come even close to the two goals he scored in 49 minutes off the bench.

Yes, Fernandez is a left winger naturally, but he should be able to cope playing in the right since he’s a right footed.

4. Start Casseres Jr. too

Fernandez isn’t the only youngster who deserves more playing time but also Venezuelan midfielder Cristian Casseres Jr. New York’s starting midfielder Sean Davis’s passing game has been off lately.

Casseres Jr. looked bright in the seven MLS games he played in so far this season. He tallied two goals and one assist. Meanwhile, Davis racked two assists in 15 MLS appearances.

Davis is one of the leaders of the club, he’s been a regular on the team since 2017, hence it’s easy to think it would be absurd far Chris Armas to leave him on the bench all of the sudden. Well, All-Star defender Murillo, was underperforming earlier this season and Armas had to bench him.

After seeing his minutes dropped, the Panamanian started to look like himself again. He notched two assists and one goal in his last two games.

Either keeping Davis on the sideline will wake him up or it could give birth to a new Red Bulls star, Cristian Casseres Jr. The teenager was supposed to be the next Tyler Adams at one point but hasn’t played in two games.

5. Kaku needs to stay hot

Some might argue that the only time Alejandro “Kaku” Romero was red hot this season was when he kicked the ball at the Sporting Kansas City’s fan. But the midfielder is on a good streak now, he found the net or had an assist in four straight matches after failing to do so in three consecutive encounters.

He’s still not at his very best but the Paraguayan has been instrumental to the club lately. With Bradley Wright-Phillips still on the team’s injury list and players out on international duty, the team needs Kaku to carry them.

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