After many episodes of bravery vs. Real Salt Lake, it seems like newly appointed New York Red Bulls captain Sean Davis can lead his home team.
New York Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis is sprinting after Real Salt Lake’s Nick Besler in the 42nd minute of the two sides’ encounter on Saturday. After catching up to Besler by the touchline, Davis leans on his opponent to body him off the ball. The ball goes out of play on Davis.
The midfielder is jogging back to his position while raising his hand to fix…the captain’s armband. There’s a new captain in New Jersey.
Looking back at the Red Bulls’ history, they mostly had star players wearing the sacred captain armband. The last one was the team’s best-ever keeper, Luis Robles.
Prior to that, it was RBNY’s all-time assist leader and former United States international Sacha Kljestan. One of the best midfielders in New York’s history, Dax McCarty, was The Metros’ leader before Kljestan.
As captain, the Red Bulls also had Arsenal F.C. legend Thierry Henry, their second all-time top scorer in Juan Pablo Angel, U.S. legend Claudio Reyna, a player who won the World Cup with France in Youri Djorkaeff, and another U.S. legend in Tab Ramos, to name a few.
After this spree of MLS giants, the Red Bulls have a rather ordinary player as their leader. A player with a babyface and not the most dominating voice. A player who cemented his spot in New York’s starting XI. But he’s not an All-Star nor even the star player on the team.
Despite that, Davis is the most special captain in the team’s history. He’s RBNY’s first Homegrown Player to ever receive such an honor.
In only his second game as skipper on Saturday, New York’s ex-academy player proved to be a fearless leader.
He wasn’t afraid to push an angry Nedum Onuoha away from his teammates in the matchup with RSL — don’t get fooled by the babyface. Onuoha is a well-built former Premier League defender.
The midfielder also stepped between Daniel Royer and aggressive Real Salt Lake midfielder Everton Luiz when they were confronting each other. As Davis did with Onuoha, he pushed Luiz away from his teammate.
That’s something New York has missed the last two seasons. Their last captain was a keeper, hence he couldn’t be there every time his teammates were going at it with their opponents.
Davis didn’t show fear in leading his teammates either. In the 95th minute, the players weren’t drifting back on defense, which led to him screaming at them to run back.
Ten minutes earlier, the midfielder spoke sternly to Amro Tarek and Patrick Seagrist. A tough leader like that is often needed on a team.
But a leader additionally requires a soft side. Davis checked on Cristian Casseres Jr. when he was down after Douglas Martinez tackled him in the 79th minute.
It wasn’t hard to tell who was the Red Bulls’ captain on Saturday. However, it was indeed difficult to tell that it was only Davis’ second time captaining the team.
To add to his courageous nature, Davis has another key asset, and it’s the fact that he knows everything about the team and its system. Davis is from New Jersey and first spent time with the club back in 2009.
He played for their youth teams, the U-23 side (won the NPSL title with them in 2014), and the reserve team. Experiencing New York’s system for so long, Davis is able to pick up which players need tactical guidance.
And of course, when you spend so much time with a club, it’s almost impossible not to be passionate about it. This is arguably the most important quality a captain needs.
Most of New York’s previous captains had already established careers before joining the club. But Davis had to fight from the second team to make the senior squad. Therefore, it means more for him to wear the captain’s armband.
The New Jersey native made RBNY’s first team before the 2015 season. Back then, it wasn’t easy to creep onto the Red Bulls roster as a midfielder. But there was the slim 22-year-old homegrown kid subbing in for Kljestan in the 86th minute of a match vs. the San Jose Earthquakes on April 17, 2015.
He scored a brace vs. Chelsea in a friendly that season to carry New York to a 4-2 win. The American became a starter the following campaign.
During Davis’ five years with New York, he’s seen them in every state possible.
Before the 2015 season, the Red Bulls lost their captain and star player, Henry. McCarty was thus called on to be the captain. Young Davis was there, soaking up McCarty’s words, not knowing that one day he would be in a similar spot. Before this season, New York lost three star players in Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kemar Lawrence, and Robles.
RBNY won the Supporters’ Shield in 2015. In 2017, Davis saw another new leader on the pitch in Kljestan. The Red Bulls finished in sixth place that season. Davis saw what it’s like to lead a struggling team.
Later in 2018, New York won the Supporters’ Shield again with another new captain to learn from in Robles.
The 27-year-old Davis has seen different examples of how to lead a team. Plus, wearing a captain armband isn’t all new to him. During his college days, he captained Duke University.
The experience showed on Saturday. Although the former Duke Blue Devil isn’t a superstar like his predecessors, he has a promising spell as New York’s captain.
Davis possesses many of the tools needed to lead and assist his teammates. He’s been around, so he knows how things run in this club both on and off the field. He’s brave enough to stand up to his opponents and also be stern with his teammates.
But most importantly, New York is his first and only professional team; his first love. The midfielder has been with them through the highs and the lows for a number of years. Thus, he knows how to lead RBNY in different situations.
There’s no need for Davis to fix his home team’s captain armband…it fits perfectly.