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Three questions with Once a Metro

MLS: Real Salt Lake at New York Red Bulls Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

RSL Soapbox) The Red Bulls have had the kind of season so far the makes them hard to pin down with seven wins, seven losses, and one tie. Who is this team and how good are they compared to last year?

Once a Metro) The beginning of the season was maddening. The team just won the Supporter’s Shield and made the Eastern Conference Finals. The only starters they lost were Matt Miazga to Chelsea and Damien Perrinelle due to ACL surgery. Granted they are both CBs, a team of this caliber was returning nine of their starting XI.

But when the season began there seemed to be ZERO chemistry. The offense didn’t score in five of their first six games. The defense let up 17 goals in the first eight games (2-6- 0). Fans were highly confused. Then out of thin air, RBNY made a trade after losing to the Colorado Rapids. They picked up Aurelien Collin from Orlando City.

Collin seems to be the missing link at the moment. He has almost single-handedly changed the season around. Including the US Open Cup, the team has only given up three goals in eight games. And they haven’t conceded AT ALL in their last five. Not to be outdone, the offense finally woke up as well. They’ve scored 22 in their last nine games.

Your question is, “who is this team?” It’s a great question. I hope it’s the team we have seen the last eight games, not the first eight games. The last time they played a quality Western Conference team was when they defeated FC Dallas 4-0 at the end of April.

RSL Soapbox) Fans were less than thrilled when Petke was let go. How is Jesse Marsch viewed these days?

Once a Metro) We all know the saga that occurred after Mike Petke led RBNY to the Supporter’s Shield in 2013 and the Eastern Conference Final in 2014, only to get sacked. At first, the sentiment was low. Really low. Sporting Director Ali Curtis and new manager Jesse Marsch held a town hall for about 150 die hard supporters and the tone was one of anger.

Since then, the two other town halls have been much more light-hearted. It’s easy to forget the rough times after your team wins a Supporter’s Shield. Or two in three years, after having nothing in trophy case for the first 18 years. Petke is still viewed as one of the most beloved MetroStar/Red Bull players and coaches, but supporters have let go of the notion that he should come back as manager.

Marsch has brought in a much more up-tempo style to New York. Last year, the team was forced to press the ball much higher. It led to a lot more 50/50 balls in the air and mistakes from the opposing backline and ultimately a few goals off turnovers in the final third. This year, the team’s free kicks look like something out of an “And1” Mixtape compilation. Creative, planned, free flowing. Marsch won Coach of the Year in 2015 and the Red Bulls just gave him a contract extension last week. I believe Marsch is viewed in a very positive light.

RSL Soapbox) Do fans miss the days of big name players like Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez? What are the pros and cons?

Once a Metro) Two years ago, the answer to the question would have been yes. But since the team showed they can be successful without those names, I will now say no. The Red Bulls have their lowest payroll since the inception of the Designated Player rule. The largest salary belongs to Bradley Wright-Phillips at $700k. That’s a steal for someone who has over 50 goals in 2.5 years. Every other team has at least one player making over $1M.

The pro for the team is that they don’t feel obligated to run an offense through one specific player. We loved Thierry Henry, but he demanded the ball, which ended up diminishing the creativity from other players and the team as a whole. The con is that this is New York. More casual fans may not recognize players from the current squad. RBNY attendance is fairly low for the size of the market the team plays in.