Red Bulls Contracts
Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ (Credit: New York Red Bulls)

The New York Red Bulls’ season is winding down. While the team is still fighting to make the MLS Cup Playoffs, the end will come eventually. With that also comes the end of player’s Major League Soccer contracts. A few notable, and some non-notable, names are nearing the end of their current Red Bulls contracts.

The age old question then re-emerges: Which players are brought back and which are let go? The 2023 season has been one of frustration for RBNY. Potentially missing the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. Lack of cohesion within the roster. Injuries and poor play preempted shifting roles throughout. Plus a head coaching change mid-season.

If fans want a full-on rebuild some of the old faces must go. However we do know of at least one return. News broke today that defender Andrés Reyes has signed a new contract extension. The Colombian will remain in Harrison through 2026 (three years). There is also an option for 2027.

Besides that, let’s look at the others coming to the end of their current deals.

 

Cameron Harper – Winger (Defender/Midfielder)

Harper has played in multiple set-ups since joining RBNY in 2021. Each with its own results.

This season Harper was moved back to be a defensive right winger under both Gerhard Struber and Troy Lesesne. Part of that was necessity. However it also felt like New York was trying to make Harper a John Tolkin on the right side. That meant leaving center backs with more ground to cover. Or, leaving JMI in the back where his full field threatening skills couldn’t be used.

Harper has always worked best as an attacker. In midfield, his passing ability has been a key in play development when he gets the ball. He isn’t as opportunistic as someone like John Tolkin. But his ability to get to the corner and cross low is efficient. That was seen plenty in 2022 when he was usually a replacement player for Lewis Morgan.

Even this past weekend that notion was in full force. Against D.C. United he assisted and scored a goal all in the first half.

The Scottish-American’s fate really comes down to tactics. If New York needs someone to play right wing, they can do better. If RBNY wants a solid midfielder he’s worth it. My opinion is to exercise Harper’s one year option.

 

Hassan Ndam – Defender

Ndam has quietly worked his way up from second half substitute to starting caliber player. After re-joining Red Bulls II early last year Ndam officially made the jump to MLS during the playoff push. 

This year, Ndam has shown how good he can be in the middle of the defense. Back in July, he was thrust into a starting role against league leading FC Cincinnati. Regular starter Andrés Reyes was suspended or yellow card accumulation. Despite playing directly against MLS All-Star Luciano Acosta, and earning a yellow early on, Ndam’s performance was stellar. Despite playing with a caution, Ndam limited Acosta to one low-danger shot in the 52nd minute.

Ndam has the physicality of someone like Tim Parker. But uses it in smart ways that doesn’t impede his defensive ability.

On a biased note, Ndam spending 2020 with The Miami FC in the USL Championship means I’ll always like him. With Reyes being re-signed, bringing back another CM might seem like overkill. If the team knows they’ll play him it’s worth keeping him in Harrison.

 

Dylan Nealis – Defender

New York needs players to play right wing. It can do better than Dylan Nealis.

Nealis has tried to play in the back alongside his brother, captain Sean Nealis. But his injury prone status and inability to keep balls out of the final third make him a risk. He returned recently after having Core Muscle Surgery earlier this year. In his just over 900 minutes this season, D. Nealis has rarely been a factor in gaining points in a season where narrow loses have piled up.

If his brother being captain plays any major role in his contract status it’ll be frustrating. If he’s cheap enough, it won’t hurt to keep him. But he’s not a player to keep around because he’s a good fit.

 

Matt Nocita – Defender

A first round pick from the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, Nocita came to New York from the U.S. Naval Academy. The draft has been a mixed bag for plenty of teams and the Red Bulls are no exception.

Statistically speaking, Nocita has appeared on the first team bench 16 times. He’s played in two matches, one regular season and one Open Cup. Both games were against FC Cincinnati. He’s started 16 games for Red Bulls II in MLS Next Pro, going the full 90 in all but three. It should be mentioned that the team finished fourth in its conference (allowing the second fewest goals in the East).

It seems as though New York just has better center backs than Nocita right now. Nealis, Reyes, and even Ndam all play at a first division level. Nocita is 24, the same age as Ndam, and not getting younger. If RBNY decides to keep Ndam, like I believe they should, Nocita isn’t really worth keeping. At least, not for the first team. If New York really wants to extend his MLS option and keep him on the reserve side, so be it. But it’s hard to see what his future could be at the MLS level.

It really depends on how much more New York thinks they can develop out of him, But the ceiling is approaching.

 

Daniel Edelman – Midfielder

Edelman occupies an interesting space between having playing value and selling value. The captain of the U-20 U.S. National Team, the midfielder has a lot of future value. Right now, his best asset is passing and play making. He has a goal to his name this season, but many attacks have gone through the Warren Township native.

He won the 2022 Newcomer of the Year award last season for the Red Bulls. There is a risk that his ability is going to be hampered by a lack of new talent around him. But, Red Bull global could easily keep and sell the 20 year old. Either to a team in Europe or, more specifically, a Red Bull team in Europe.

Bring Edelman back with the intend to sell him later.

 

Jayden Reid – Defender

Those that forgot Reid was under an MLS contract should be forgiven. The defender is one of four Homegrown players signed to a contract this year. However the Elmont, NY defender has rarely factored into Major League Soccer games. Reid has appeared on the first team bench 12 times. His only game appearance came as a late sub in May’s 0-0 draw with Toronto FC. He didn’t officially play over one minute before the final whistle.

Reid has seen more playing time with Red Bulls II. He’s tallied nearly 1400 minutes over 21 appearances this season in MLS Next Pro. That includes 15 starts. NYRB II finished fourth in the east and hosts a playoff game this coming weekend.

Reid is a project player and still just turned 22 this year. Exercising an option on him wouldn’t be an issue. While it’s hard seeing him transition to the right wing, using him as a defensive midfielder on the first team could be a way to get him involved. Otherwise experimenting with him returning to his college Midfielder role is always an option.

 

Jorge Cabezas Hurtado – Forward

Cabezas joined New York early in August ahead of the league’s transfer window closing. He arrived from Watford F.C. of the EFL Championship (2nd Division) for the remainder of the 2023 season. 

In MLS, Cabezas has been primarily used as a substitute. After not playing a minute in the Leagues Cup, the forward has been rostered for six of the seven league games since his arrival. He’s seen action in four of those games (3 as a sub, 1 start). That start came more as desperation as a short rostered RBNY faced New England on August 30th, losing 1-0.

The reserve team has also seen Cadezas play a handful of games. He’s started three games and scored his only goal under the RB umbrella. That goal came in his first reserve match in late August helping NYRB II beat Chicago Fire II, 5-4.

This isn’t really a contract option since RBNY has no option to buy Cabezas directly. They could try to buy him outright from Watford. But from what he has shown there isn’t much reason to play ball with the EFL Championship side. In the end, Watford got what they wanted – a younger player getting playing time in competitive matches.

 

The Others

Really quick there are also a few other players that should be addressed. These are players who, according to Capology, have contracts coming to an end. However the Red Bulls official announcements don’t mention terms for them. So let’s quickly mention these few:

 

Tom Barlow – Forward

Barlow has been with the club since 2019 and scored 16 goals. He’s a liability up front, has trouble receiving passes, and muffs up chances. Troy Lesesne can say he presses and is fast, but that is not enough. Don’t resign.

 

Wiki Carmona – Midfielder (Played under option this year)

Carmona is fine but the midfield is crowded. If New York is truely trying to rebuild this offseason there are better midfielders to grab. If a new contract is needed, let him walk. Otherwise I don’t hate the option of using an option on him.

 

Bento Estrela – Midfielder (Homegrown)

The Newark native and academy product signed a professional contract back in 2021. He’s only 17 and put in over 1,000 minutes with NYRB II this year. No reason to let him leave. The potential future U.S. national youth team player could get first team minutes as soon as next year.

 

Omir Fernandez – Midfielder (Homegrown, played under option this year)

If New York has another option for Fernandez, they should use it. Otherwise, sign him to a full on new MLS contract. One of the top scoring players New York has, the enemy of NYCFC fans, and an academy product the team has put a lot of time into. Keep.

 

Steven Sserwadda – Midfielder (Played under option this year)

Sserwadda has been on the shelf most of the season due to surgery. The question really becomes does New York think he’s recovering well enough, and will he be first team ready. Hard to say so I’ll leave this one blank for the Uganda national team player.

 

Dru Yearwood – Midfielder

Yearwood looks to have a foot back towards England. Diminishing minutes in a busy midfield means his aggressive style hasn’t been able to come through. Plus New York’s lacking offense has hurt that too. He should be gone in the offseason.

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