“Out with the old, in with the new” seems like a fitting mantra for the New York Red Bulls this season. RBNY will kick-off the 2020 MLS campaign this Sunday – March 1, at Red Bull Arena vs. FC. Cincinnati, and fans are guaranteed to see a lot of unfamiliar faces on the pitch.
Red Bulls have started a new chapter this year focusing on youth development with the departures of several high-profile veterans during the off-season.
Long-time captain Luis Robles left the club to take over between the posts from Inter Miami. New York’s all-time leading goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips is looking to lift his first ever MLS Cup after signing with LAFC last week following a successful trial. Red Bulls will also have to deal with the loss of defender Kemar Lawrence, who was sold to Belgian club Anderlecht in January for a reported $1.25-million.
With two open DP spots and months of speculation, Red Bulls failed to make a significant splash in the transfer market. Instead electing to re-acquire winger Josh Sims on loan from Southampton using a “Young Designated Player” spot to bring him to Harrison. Red Bulls also signed goalkeeper David Jensen from FC Utrecht along with defender Mandela Egbo from SV Darmstadt.
Red Bulls filled out the rest of their roster by signing promising young players: John Tolkin, Jared Stroud and Chris Lema from the club’s USL affiliate Red Bulls II. It’s still unknown whether any of them make the first team outright after preseason wraps up, but all figure to be a major part of the club’s plans going forward.
Red Bulls also added seven collegiate players during the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, all of whom will most likely begin the season on loan with RB II, barring injuries to the first team. Patrick Seagrist (DEF – Marquette) was selected 10th overall in the first round and is probably the only one with a real chance of playing first team football at RB Arena this season. New York then traded for the 15th overall pick and selected Cherif Dieye (MID – Louisville). Red Bulls also added two second round selections in Wallis Lapsley (GK – UC Davis) and former Manchester City academy player Deri Corge (MID – Wright State). Stavros Zarokostas (FOR – Rhode Island), Barry Sharifi (MID – Loyola) & Niko Petridis (MID – St Johns) were also selected on the second day of the draft.
Signing young players from the RB youth academy or RB II and bringing them into the first team fold has become the norm in recent years as the organization has shifted towards a player development model. Similar to that of other Red Bulls owned clubs RB Leipzig (Germany) and RB Salzburg (Austria).
The idea behind this philosophy is to spend money on scouting and development and sell players on for a profit, rather than throwing away money on the international transfer market. This strategy has worked wonders for Leipzig and Salzburg, both of which were competing in the UEFA Champions League this season and are in serious contention for domestic titles as well.
New York is looking to replicate that success by “going young” this season. Out of the 26 players named to the 2020 roster on mlssoccer.com, 17 have spent time playing in USL with Red Bulls II at some point in their careers. If that seems like a large percentage, you are correct – that’s over 65% of the squad.