With the season kicking back into gear it almost seems wrong to look at the New York Red Bulls and find problems. The team just won its first match back at Red Bull Arena against Nashville SC and right now the soccer scene in the area (and country overall) is pretty high thanks to the international tournaments. But those same tournaments are also causing some fans to be concerned.
I mentioned it in my piece over the weekend, but prior to kickoff Kyle Duncan, Caden Clark, and Frankie Amaya were all named to the provisional Gold Cup roster for the U.S. Men’s National team. Now while it is very unlikely that all three will be taken from New York, the fact is there is a solid chance at least one could be gone for just over a month (or just under 20% of the season schedule).
At the Nashville game when asked about their thoughts, fan reaction was mixed and almost altered by the play on the field. During pre-game both inside and outside the stadium most fans who spoke with New York Sports Nation weren’t thrilled with the prospect. It isn’t shocking to see why since Clark leads the team in goals and Duncan has been able to play well in the back while also working as an offensive piece when needed. The clinching goal of Friday’s contest was scored by him off an assist from Clark.
One fan we spoke to was Chris of Section 226 who made it clear his worry is missing Clark. While he isn’t scared that the team will lose all three, the prospect of the Minnesota native heading off doesn’t fill him with confidence especially if Duncan also gets pulled away.
“Tom Edwards can fill in at right back but we’re gonna miss him in midfield and without Caden Clark we really don’t have anybody creative,” he said. “Without a signing we’re going to suffer a lot.”
In Friday’s lineup, new head coach Gerhard Struber did experiment by playing Edwards in a right back position. While it was shaky at first with Nashville and New York trading momentum and chances, but over time he settled in before being subbed off for Drew Yearwood just after halftime. From that point the defense to midfield flow improved drastically but things are still working out.
Speaking of halftime, the mood had shifted somewhat and so did fan responses when asked about losing the young trio. Following Fábio’s goal and the team taking more control in the latter stages reaction to the question became more mixed. Brian Cord of Section 101 was probably one of the most positive voices in the crowd and seemed more excited for the player’s chances on the USMNT than the prospect of losing them.
“Not worried at all,” said Cord when asked during the halftime intermission. “Big congratulations to them on (being considered for) the U.S. Men’s National Team. Very proud of them and I hope they do very well. I’m not worried at all no matter what. The Red Bulls are still going to win no matter what… we’ll be ready for them when they come back.”
It’s hard to say how much the shift was genuine or if it was only due to the team winning at that point. Others still like Chris saw the improvements but know one match can’t speak for the whole team or season.
“(The forwards) looked really good tonight. I think the problem is when the long ball doesn’t really work and we need somebody creative because it’s really only been Caden this season,” he said, while also noting the team’s midfield had begun to take shape.
Following the match the topic was still polarizing when talking to fans, with some on social media even going so far as to suggest games during this span shouldn’t count toward the playoffs (something I can’t even pretend to go with). So what should fans hope for going forward and how should they feel?
The answer isn’t easy but the optimal thing (besides losing none of the players) would be to only lose one. Clark and Duncan are most likely to be called up and if Amaya was instead taken it wouldn’t be crazy to think the team and the USMNT come to an agreement where they only take one midfielder. Like Chris said before, losing both Clark and Duncan leaves a lot of room for players to step up. If Andrew Gutman can get healthy again and Yearwood moves into a starting role more that could be a starting XI, but the rest of the player pool would leave little room for convincing substitutes.
The answer could be playing Daniel Royer more in either a starting or substitute role, the latter of which he was doing earlier this season, or calling up someone like Kyle Zajec or Jake LaCava from the struggling Red Bulls II.
The first team with everyone still on the roster will play tonight against the New England Revolution.