Alexi Lalas, Luke Rodgers
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Red Bulls aren’t short of players who dominated for just one season. We countdown the club’s top-five one-hit wonders. 

Onz Chery

Vacations, you go, you have fun, and you leave. New York is one of the top vacation spots in the United States. Fittingly enough, the New York Red Bulls–although, they play in New Jersey–have somewhat been a “vacation team” over the years.

Many players joined the Red Bulls, had a blast, then left after one season. They made the fans fall in love with them with marvelous performances and then, next season, were nowhere to be found in New Jersey.

Two of these players even had their highest-scoring season in their year with RBNY. Here are the top five one-season wonders the Red Bulls saw:

5. Alexi Lalas

Yes, former U.S. ace defender and current FOX Sports analyst, Alexi Lalas, was once a Red Bull player.

Lalas joined New York in 1998 after his famous two-season spell in Italy with Padova and two years with the New England Revolution.

He played in 25 matches, tallying two goals. New York finished in third place in the Eastern Conference before losing to Columbus Crew in the first round of the playoffs via a penalty shootout, 3-2.

Lalas made the All-Star team that season to become the first New York defender to play in the exhibition game.

4. Fabian Espindola

The Argentine signed a contract with RBNY before the 2013 season after playing six seasons with Real Salt Lake, where he established himself as a fast and skillful forward.

Going into the season, New York was eager to put up a strong campaign after losing in the first round of the playoffs in 2012.

The team had just traded their top scorer of last season, Kenny Cooper Jr. Espindola had some big shoes to fill. He proved that he was up to the task to some extent.

The South American netted a double in his first MLS game with New York, which was against the Portland Timbers. He finished the season as New York’s second top scorer in all competitions by one goal, finding the net 11 times in 31 games. It was the most goals he scored in a season in his career.

Espindola, notably, scored a brace versus his former side, RSL, in a 4-3 victory during the regular season.

Espindola also notched an impressive goal-and-assist performance versus Reading United in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to lead the Red Bulls to a 2-0 win after playing only 45 minutes. He only scored in the Open Cup with New York.

The former MLS forward won his only Supporters’ Shield with The Metros that year. Despite the impressive regular season, the Red Bulls lost in the first round of the playoffs and the round of 16 of the Open Cup for the second straight year.

According to Dave Martinez from Empire of Soccer (which is no longer running), New York didn’t renew Espindola’s contract because of financial issues. His salary for the 2014 season would’ve been “at least a $450k hit.”

Furthermore, he was an inconsistent scorer. The club had to shop for a more reliable forward during the 2013 season because of that. The new striker they landed their hands on ended up being the team’s all-time top scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips.

3. Peter Vermes

The first-ever captain New York had in the MLS only lasted one season with the club, defender Peter Vermes.

Before wearing the MetroStars’ jersey, Vermes played for the U.S. in the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and was the 1988 U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year.

The defender was the second most used player in New York’s inaugural 1996 season, logging in 2970 minutes. The team finished in third place in the Eastern Conference before losing in the first round of the playoffs to D.C. United.

The MetroStars traded Vermes to the Colorado Rapids before the following season for Kerry Zavagnin, a midfielder who spent two seasons with them without scoring a goal.

Meanwhile, Vermes was the MLS Defender of the Year in 2000.

2. Luke Rodgers

The Englishman was a typical Red Bull player. He was explosive. The fans loved him, mainly because of his energy.

It took a lot of work behind the scenes to sign him in 2011 but when Rodgers finally step foot on the pitch, it was worth it. In his fourth game with the team, he bagged a brace and an assist in a 3-0 victory over San Jose Earthquakes.

Two matches later, the former Notts County player scored a winner versus Sporting Kansas City. Four outings later, he netted two consecutive game-tying goals.

Rodgers had the goals and the assists, he went on a five-game streak in which he either racked a goal or an assist. The European finished the campaign as the team’s second top scorer, recording 10 goals in 25 outings, and three assists.

Rodgers was also RBNY’s second most yellow-carded player, receiving six.

He was on target in the playoffs but the Red Bulls were eliminated in the first round, yet again. Rodgers couldn’t get a visa to play in the United States, therefore the club had to end his contract 20 days into the following season.

1. Kenny Cooper Jr.

The ex-Manchester United youth player was Rodgers’s replacement going into the 2012 season.

His first MLS game with New York was against his former team, F.C. Dallas, on March 11, 2012. He scored against them in a 2-1 loss.

The forward had two five-game scoring runs, which included two braces. Throughout the entire season, he had five braces.

Of course, Cooper was the team’s top scorer in all competitions, netting 19 goals in 37 games, which was his career-high. The American was the MLS’s second top scorer that season.

New York lost in the first round of the playoffs that year, as well, after finishing third in the East.

The club traded Cooper to Dallas before the next season because of salary cap restrictions.

The former U.S. international attempted to join RBNY again in 2016 but couldn’t make the pre-season roster. He was 31 then.

Originally from Haiti, Ralph 'Onz' Chery started his writing career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He also wrote for First Touch, the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and other local leagues. After graduating, Onz started covering the New York Red Bulls for ESNY and joined Haitian Times.