Academy Continues to Bear Fruit for Red Bulls

There may be no better advertisement for the New York Red Bulls Academy than Saturday’s upcoming match against FC Dallas.

It’s a fixture that could feature a number of players who have come up through the system to play in MLS. Ironically, the Red Bulls’ opponent has taken a near-identical approach to team-building and has found similar success. For two teams that rely on their academies, Saturday’s match can be used as a shining example for the rest of the league, with both sides displaying how their measured approach is bearing fruit.

The Red Bulls are slated to be without three starters and FC Dallas is set to have five players missing from the lineup, all due to international duty. The Red Bulls will likely feature at least four players in their starting lineup from their academy and FC Dallas could well boast a similar number. It’s a testament to how these two teams have grown increasingly reliant on homegrown, domestic players.

The investment in academy development is paying off for both sides, bigly.

Saturday’s quartet of likely starters from the Academy includes Connor Lade, Sean Davis, Alex Muyl and Tyler Adams. The bench will likely have three other graduates of the academy such as Arun Basuljevic, Dilly Duka and Derrick Etienne. There’s no denying the impact of these four players have had this year and graduates such as Lade have become mainstays within the organization.

[Red Bulls Insider: National Team Reaping Benefits of Red Bulls Academy]

Oscar Pareja in Dallas and Jesse Marsch in New York are two head coaches who are unafraid to try young players. Both coaches have been rewarded with silverware in the process.

“I’ve certainly had a lot of respect and what Oscar has done with that team over the last three years; I think we’ve been neck-and-neck with them in a lot of different categories. Over the last three years, those are the two best teams in the league. We’re both now a little bit further down the table than we’ve been in past seasons but I think both teams are capable of beating anyone and being very good on any given day,” Marsch said on Tuesday.

“It’s a day where we play each other where we’re both missing some players so we’ll have to call on some depth. They’ve done a really good job with young players, they’ve done a really good job with young players – so have we. In many ways, it will be a battle of two teams with similar philosophies and similar success rates in the past three years and now see who will gain an edge on the day.”

Since 2013, the Red Bulls have won two Supporters’ Shield titles for best regular season finishes in MLS. FC Dallas captured the Shield last season. The Red Bulls have also taken three of the last four Eastern Conference titles and are in the finals of the US Open Cup this year, testaments to the patience and persistence of building through their academy.

It wasn’t always this way.

Rewind to the 2010 season and the Red Bulls’ match against the Chicago Fire. The encounter featured six Designated Player signings between the two sides, a sign at the time that big-name players (and big salaries) had come to MLS. Matches like Saturday night won’t receive the same fanfare, but the fact that each team will likely have a good chunk of their respective Starting XI be players they developed through their system is equally as important.

While television ratings, attendance, merchandising and ticket sales are all driven by stars, the overall development of the league will come from the model of teams such as the Red Bulls and FC Dallas who are developing players. It will be players like an Adams, destined for Europe someday, that will do more for MLS than their big name counterparts.

[Red Bulls Insider Podcast: Tyler Adams]

How did Thierry Henry play a role in Tyler Adams' career? Who's Adams' best friend on the team? The Red Bulls' midfielder answers that and more in "Stoppage Time"!

The greater the success that Adams and players like him have in MLS as well as the international level, the better as a whole for the entire league.

RED BULLS NOTES

– With Michael Amir Murillo, Fidel Escobar and Kemar Lawrence away for international duty, the Red Bulls will be relying on their depth in Dallas. The good news is that the loss of those three backline players will be offset in part by the return to health of several players.

– Center back Damien Perrinelle and Lade both trained on Tuesday. Both should be ready for Dallas.

Aurelien Collin, a center back, does not appear ready to join the team quite yet but is making progress. The same can be said for midfielder Danny Royer, out a month with a knee injury.

“Aurelien did not [train], he was on the side,” Marsch said. “Royer was running, one the side. Making progress with Royer. Aurelien is still feeling his plantar fasciitis.”

– Recently signed winger Muhamed Keita did not suit-up for the Red Bulls on Friday in a 1-1 result at Red Bull Arena against New York City FC. But the player is apparently making an impact and could be ready for a debut.

The team scrimmaged on Tuesday against their USL squad, playing two-25 minute halves. Marsch said that Keita, playing with the first team, scoring three goals.

– Red Bull Arena will host the finals of the Danone Nations Cup on September 24th. From 34,000 school programs and 11,000 club teams globally, the final teams will appear in a series of matches at the MLS side’s stadium, marking the first time in 18 years that the prestigious tournament will be held in the United States.

Former United States women’s national star Abby Wambach is the tournament’s ambassador this year. The tournament is held globally for children between the ages of 10 to 12 years old. In addition, this year’s Danone Nations Cup will feature a girls tournament for the first time.

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Devils Nab Top Collegiate Player, Defenseman Will Butcher

A year ago, the New York Rangers plucked the prize free agent collegian on the market — Jimmy Vesey.

This time around Ray Shero‘s New Jersey Devils did likewise, signing prime college free agent, puck-moving defenseman Will Butcher.

For Shero this is a major coup since the Hobey Baker Award-winner had been pursued — just like Vesey — by several NHL clubs.

During a conference call with the media, Will Butcher explains why decided to sign with the New Jersey Devils.

At age 22, the Sun Prairie, Wisconsin native has the maturity and savvy to step right on to the Garden State varsity or, at the very least open the 2017-18 campaign on New Jersey’s American Hockey League farm club in Binghamton.

Captain of Denver’s NCAA titlists this past season, Butcher signed a two-year entry-level contract with an annual salary of $925,000.

Assuming he completes a commendable training camp, the University of Denver grad could win a spot in the top six group of blue liners.

Captain Andy Greene tops the list followed by Damon Severson. The second unit features Ben Lovejoy and John Moore while Butcher could wind up on the final pairing with Steven Santini.

Fortuitously for Shero, Butcher nixed signing with Colorado although the Avalanche had plucked him in the fifth round of the 2013 Entry Draft.

To the Devils credit, the organization captured his imagination while Will rejected bids from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Vegas Golden Knights, Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres.

Shero demonstrated that where the was a Will there was a way to get him to Newark.

This much is certain; if there’s one area that has been the Devils weak underbelly since last season, it has been defense.

While offense was bolstered last year with the addition of Taylor Hall, the blue line corps was weakened with the loss of Adam Larsson to Edmonton.

One could get exhausted just reeling off Butcher’s credits.

During his final collegiate season, he ranked second in points among defensemen with seven goals and 30 assists for 37 points in 43 games.

A year earlier he was honored with several awards including NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team, NCHC Best Offensive Defenseman, NCHC First All-Star Team, NCHC Player of the Year, USA Hockey’s College Player of the Year.

Want more? How about NCAA (West) First Team All-American.

Couple of side notes: the Hobey Baker Award is named in honor of the Princeton University star who many regard as the greatest American (amateur) player of all-time.

Also, Butcher skated for three seasons with Travis Zajac‘s kid brother, Nolan, at Denver.

If Butcher enjoys as much success in his freshman NHL season as Vesey did with the Rangers last semester, Shero will be laughing all the way to the G.M.’s meetings!

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Red Bulls Have Some Fun at NYCFC’s Expense

The New York Red Bulls just expertly trolled New York City F.C. by subtly taking a dig at their noisy neighbors from The Bronx.

This week, NYCFC announced that they would be moving an upcoming home match to Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, the home stadium for UConn football. The issue is a conflict with the New York Yankees, the co-owners of City and also joint tenants of their mutual home field, Yankee Stadium. NYCFC was forced to move the match to Hartford after striking out with several other local options.

Rentschler Field has hosted some marquee international matches and has a regulation grass field. But social media and soccer columnists had a field day with the decision.

It is somewhat embarrassing, given that City’s selling point to local fans is being a New York team playing within the five boroughs, something they gleefully claim the Red Bulls don’t do. They’ve also promised that any new stadium they built will be built within the confines of New York City proper and not in the outlying areas.

[Dyer: Can Felipe Get Underneath NYCFC’s Skin Again?]

As such, moving a match to Hartford isn’t exactly ideal.

So minutes before kickoff and with a sold-out Red Bull Arena buzzing, City’s Starting XI was announced to the tune of ‘Brass Bonanza.’ Quite a subtle dig.

The tune, of course, is synonymous with the old Hartford Whalers, dating back to their days in the WHA and then carrying over with the team into their transition to the NHL in 1979. It stuck as their anthem until 1997 when the team moved and became the Carolina Hurricanes.

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Giants Seek Improvement From O-Line

Through the first two games of the preseason, the New York Giants‘ offense has not yet clicked.

The major culprit in games against the Steelers and the Browns has been the offensive line. It is an issue that head coach Ben McAdoo says needs definite improvement.

Winless in their first two preseason games, the Giants have scored just 18 combined points. Most worrisome though is the fact that Big Blue has allowed nine sacks during that stretch. Only one team in the league last year, the Cleveland Browns, averaged more than four sacks allowed a game, underscoring just how big of a concern the play of the offensive line has been thus far.

Two preseason games are a small sample size, but it is clear that the line must improve.

[Latest Giants Talk Podcast: Tuck on Odell Beckham’s Injury & the NFC East!]

“I think the first group needs to play together and you need to be able to push the first group as well, so there is a balance there,” McAdoo said. “But guys have earned opportunities to go in there and compete, and we need to give them those opportunities.”

The Giants didn’t draft any Week 1 starters for their line, but they did bring in veteran D.J. Fluker. The former San Diego Charger can play either guard or tackle and is solid at either spot.

Fluker isn’t listed as a starter on the depth chart at the moment, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him as an opening night starter against Dallas in Week 1.

The Giants went against conventional wisdom the last two NFL Drafts by opting not to take an offensive lineman in the first round. The same can be said of their free agency strategy, with Fluker being the only big-name addition during that stretch.

The offense, however, doesn’t call for an elite line, given that quarterback Eli Manning is supposed to make quick reads and get the ball out of his hands fast. Theoretically, this means that Manning won’t be under pressure due to the fact that the ball will be out of his hands by the time the rush collapses the pocket.

But the numbers from preseason point to the fact that the Giants’ quarterbacks have been under heavy duress.

“We understand that’s where we’re at right now, but we’re attacking every day, trying to get better, as I’ve said. It’s a process, we understand that. We’re not going to freak out about it because we’re still working,” center Weston Richburg said. “We’re still kind of in training camp mode, so we’re coming out and trying to do everything we can to put our team in the best situation possible.”

In his fourth year as Giants center, Weston Richburg talks about going up against Damon "Snacks" Harrison in practice and improving the Giants' offensive line's overall play in 2017.

Besides allowing sacks, the offense has struggled in other areas. They have yet to score a touchdown and injuries to Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall have come at the most inopportune time.

It isn’t just the passing game that has faltered a bit in training camp, but a running game that struggled last year has actually taken a marginal step back in preseason.

The Giants have managed 138 rushing yards so far this preseason, good for 3.2 yards per carry. Last year, Big Blue averaged 3.5 yards per carry in the regular season, fourth worst in the NFL.

[More From Giants Training Camp]

The good news for Big Blue is that it’s still preseason, and there’s hope that in a week’s time, help might just be on the way. As teams trim down to a 53-man roster, veterans are cut or a talented young player gets lost in the numbers game.

Given that they do have some salary cap room, the Giants are in a position to add a player or two who might be able to make an immediate impact on the line. It just might be their best chance to address some of their problems.

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Can Felipe Get Underneath NYCFC’s Skin Again?

There is a special kind of hate that New York City F.C. players have for Felipe Martins.

In turn, the New York Red Bulls‘ midfielder seems to relish the fact that he’s able to play mind games with his club’s rivals.

Don’t get it twisted — Martins is a pit bull on the field, a fact that is seemingly multiplied when the uniform on the other side of the pitch is powder blue. The 26-year-old Martins, Brazilian-born and with extensive experience in Europe before coming to MLS, gets pumped up for rivalry matches in a special way.

This Friday’s match at Red Bull Arena against NYCFC is no different, he says, even if it is the fourth time in 10 weeks that these two rivals will have played each other in all competitions.

“Of course when you play New York City, it is a good match to play. We want to win because we’re at home. But at this point in the season, every match counts and won’t be different from other games,” Martins said Monday following training. “I just think we need to show up, take care of business, [get] three points and go home.”

The Red Bulls have dropped both regular season meetings between these two sides, but did knock City out of the U.S. Open Cup earlier this year.

[Listen: Red Bulls Insider Podcast With Felipe]

Martins has played in all 10 Hudson River Derbies to date, a series still historically controlled by the Red Bulls, but has tipped in the direction of City this year. While formations, head coaches and players have changed a bit in what is now the third year of the ‘Hudson Derby,’ one of the constants remains Martins and his presence on the pitch.

The other constant is the hatred that NYCFC seems to feel for Martins in a very special way.

Martins is an agitator, something he glows over when asked about it. He loves to play physically and he delights in playing with opponents (and this one in particular), emotionally and mentally. He’s the type of player that is loved by his teammates, but despised by the other side.

A master of trash talk and irritation who backs up this mental side of the game with a deft pass or a skillful touch into space.

Or a swift tackle when need be.

All of which leaves Martins as the one singular player in the Red Bulls’ Starting XI who likely isn’t getting a holiday card from anyone associated with the NYCFC organization. And Martins is fine with that.

[Read More Red Bulls Insider From Kristian Dyer]

He wouldn’t have it any other way. He wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I love it, I love it. If they hate me, it’s because of something positive I bring [against] them. If they love me? For me it doesn’t matter what they think, actually,” Martins said.

“On the field, I’m not here to make friends with them, I’m not here to be friends with anybody. I just play for my club, that’s Red Bulls. I look for the three points on Friday.”

QUICK NOTES

  • Recently signed winger Muhamed Keita, yet to debut for the Red Bulls, will likely be on the bench for Friday night’s match against NYCFC. Head coach Jesse Marsch said that with the Red Bulls on the road, Keita stayed behind and focused on conditioning last week.
  • Daniel Royer is running on the AlterG treadmill at “80 percent” of his body weight, per Marsch. The Austrian midfielder is nearing a return from his knee injury a couple weeks ago, but likely won’t be training with the first team anytime soon.
  • Aurélien Collin had an MRI on Tuesday and is receiving treatment for plantar fasciitis. Marsch is hopeful Collin can begin training on Wednesday, noting that the center back might benefit from joining the USL team for a match this weekend.
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Cosmos Fight For Point in Wild Affair

By: Lucky Ngamwajasat

Three Observations After the Cosmos’ 3-3 Draw vs. Indy Eleven:

Janusz Michallik and Ed Cohen break down how the Cosmos came back from a first half deficit to retrieve a point against Indy Eleven at MCU Park.

1. Questionable on Defense …

A roller-coaster of a match got off to a rocky start for the Cosmos, as their defending was punished by a Mexican National Team icon.

Even at the age of 38, Gerardo Torrado is a player you don’t want to leave unmarked with time to shoot.

Capped 146 times by Mexico, the Indy Eleven midfielder didn’t take long to stamp his authority on Saturday’s match. Off a set piece, the former Cruz Azul man was given time and space to launch a rocket of a shot past Jimmy Maurer in the 10th minute. The Cosmos’ goalkeeper had no chance of saving it and the visitors had the early lead.

His second goal of the evening came from a preventable situation. In midfield, Darrius Barnes lost control of the ball which led to an Indy counterattack. After working the ball around the edge of the penalty area, Torrado slammed another roaring shot past Maurer in the 14th minute.

“For the first 18, 19 minutes of the match, we weren’t connected,” Juan Guerra said during his post-match comments. “We were kind of lost in the game and I didn’t think we expected to concede a goal so early.”

After equalizing early on in the second half, Indy quickly took the lead back when Eamon Zayed took advantage of a Dejan Jakovic slip and fired a booming shot into the back of the net.

There’s no question the Cosmos are a force to be reckoned with as an attacking threat, but their defensive issues continue to be exposed.

“What we lacked [Saturday] was that composure defensively,” coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We didn’t deal with some of [Indy’s] offensive moments.

2. … But No Questioning Their Offense

While the Cosmos’ defensive play wasn’t up to par, their attacking play was top notch.

New York had 36 shots in the match, including an incredible 24 in the second half.

After a sleepy first 20 minutes, the Cosmos were jolted back into the match after scoring off a set-piece goal of their own. Jakovic halved the Indy Eleven lead after a well-worked set piece in the 29th minute.

The hosts started the second half with their foot on the accelerator and turned up the pressure in desperate search of the equalizer. The Cosmos’ pressure paid off after Pablo Vranjican was alert to follow up a rebound and bundle it home with his head in the 50th minute.

Even after Zayed had given Indy the lead again, the Cosmos were undeterred and were able to get back on level terms late in the game. Emmanuel Ledesma‘s corner kick in the 84th minute was powered home by a thumping Guerra header.

There’s no doubting the Cosmos as an attacking unit. They’ve yet to be held off the scoresheet in the early part of the Fall Season and continue to create chances no matter where they play, whether at MCU Park or away from Coney Island.

3. Denied a Deserved Three Points?

Were it not for the efforts of Jon Busch, the Cosmos would probably be celebrating a stirring comeback win.

The 41-year-old Indy Eleven goalkeeper came up with timely saves in the second half to stop New York from taking home all the spoils.

His 77th-minute denial of Andres Flores‘ gilt-edged opportunity was just one of many big saves the veteran keeper made.

“We know that he’s an experienced player and a good player,” Savarese said. “He comes up big in big moments for his team, not only with saves. He has that experience and that experience was important for his team.”

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Are Fans Ready to Fully Embrace This Version of the Red Bulls?

A simple pleasure that Shep Messing and I experience after every Red Bulls’ post game show on MSG Networks is the interaction with the team’s fan base after we say good night to the television audience.

It’s often a brief, pleasant exchange that takes place near our studio set, and a window to my understanding how savvy the soccer fan base is in New York and New Jersey.

Watching Tuesday night’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal victory over FC Cincinnati and its 35,000 fans at Nippert Stadium, a tremendous display of resilience that saw the Red Bulls claw their way back from a 2-0 deficit to advance, I was reminded of a recent conversation with a long-time season ticket holder.

There was envy in his voice as we discussed the galvanization of the game in the United States: Crowds of 50,000 regularly in Atlanta, more than 90 consecutive sellouts in Kansas City, and how soccer stadiums in the Pacific Northwest had become must-see destinations. “If Red Bull Arena is the premier soccer venue in the country,” I asked, “why can’t it be that way here?”

The fan did not hesitate.

“Because when you fire a coach and get rid of a captain that we love, there’s a price to pay for that.” It was an honest answer from someone, who despite the firing of Mike Petke in 2015, and the trade of Dax McCarty to Chicago in January, continues to support the club.

That brings us to the here and now. At what point do you embrace this team for what it is, and not what it used to be? Was Tuesday night’s incredible triumph a tipping point in the often tumultuous, and sometimes disconnected relationship between a team that’s been fun to watch for most of the 89 regular season games it has played under Jesse Marsch, and its fan base?

Reality can’t be distorted, of course. There may never be a player as talented as Thierry Henry to represent the home team at Red Bull Arena, and one of the greatest strikers of his era could not singlehandedly sell out the 25,000-seat venue. With exception of a 2013 Supporters’ Shield triumph, Henry retired with the Red Bulls’ trophy case empty.

Championships define the success or failure of any organization, and at present, that simple fact sticks in the craw of the organization and its fans alike. To the delight of fans in the nation’s capital, where D.C. United has celebrated four MLS Cup titles, and across the Hudson, where New York City FC supporters would relish the chance to win the league despite its neighbors having a nearly two-decade head start in that quest, Red Bulls’ fans have grown weary of the chase.

But has the team failed its fan base? Lately, hardly.

The club is on course to qualify for the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season. It has claimed the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs three times in the past four seasons. It’s 275 points earned at home since 2010 are the most in MLS, with those home victories produced at a venue that is largely the envy of MLS. It has not signed Jozy Altidore or David Villa at a $6 million dollar per year price tag, but secured Bradley Wright-Phillips with a multi-year extension at 15 percent the cost.

Ask a GM or Sporting Director if such a signing is to be admired or ridiculed. For the second consecutive season, the Red Bulls claimed the top score in the J.D. Power Fan Experience Study, which measures fan satisfaction at major sporting events. That’s an accomplishment of which the organization should be proud. Red Bull Academy is considered one of the best associated with MLS. Denis Hamlett will tell you that it’s THE best.

“We’ve had good two-and-a-half years, this club,” said Marsch after Tuesday’s victory which sets up a Sept. 20 showdown with Sporting Kansas City for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title, and an automatic berth in CONCACAF Champions League.

“But ultimately teams and players are judged by championships and that’s something that’s been barren with this club … no one wants to tip their hat to what’s been happening here at Red Bull and the only way to force people’s hands is to win.”

It was a bit of an “us against the world” approach by Marsch during the post game press conference, but the coach likely sensed that only Red Bulls’ supporters were in his corner for the semifinal at Cincinnati. Neutral observers love Cinderella stories, and the USL side gave the tournament one that expired Tuesday night.

The Red Bulls have suffered two defeats in their last 15 competitive games. Tuesday’s victory that saw goals scored in the 75th, 78th and 101st minutes displayed everything you want out of your team: Toughness, poise, clutch moments, an 18-year-old player saving the day by running endlessly to save a potential game-tying goal in the waning moments.

The proverbial ball is now back in the hands of its fan base. This season has seen the rival Villa stamp his reputation as the league’s best player. It’s seen ESPN’s top shelf analyst Taylor Twellman say of the Red Bulls, “they just don’t scare me.” And it’s seen the trading of a player who embodied the fans’ spirit.

Was Tuesday’s victory the longest olive branch the Red Bulls could have extended to its paying customers? Thirty months after the infamous town hall gathering in the winter of 2015, are they ready to embrace this team again?

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Happy Birthday Sam Rosen!

It’s a power play birthday!

Birthday wishes go out to beloved Hall of Fame broadcaster Sam Rosen. The legendary voice of the New York Rangers, who has been the play-by-play announcer for the Blueshirts on MSG Network since 1984, turned 70 on Saturday, Aug. 12.

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Knicks Forging Athletic & Defensive Identity

So much for an off season.

Since winning their regular-season finale, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 114-113 in the World’s Most Famous Arena, the Knicks have made one dramatic move after another.

And if all the changes and acquisitions haven’t got you thinking about the possibilities of what the 2017-18 season can hold, consider this:

The Knicks open the season Oct. 19 at Oklahoma City. Which means first-round draft pick Frank Ntilikina, in his NBA debut, could face reigning MVP Russell Westbrook.

Talk about Thunder.

In the meantime, the Knicks have been lightning.

Most recently, they signed scoring small forward Michael Beasley, the second player taken in the 2008 NBA Draft. Too old to fit the Knicks blueprint of getting younger and more athletic?

Beasley is just 28. He’s one of 11 Knicks on the 15-man roster under the age of 30. In his one season at Kansas State, Beasley broke Carmelo Anthony’s freshman record of 22 double-doubles by posting 28.

The 2017-18 roster still will have some familiar faces – with Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, and Joakim Noah – but the stye of play will be drastically different.

“We’re going to emphasize pride, work ethic, accountability,’’ Steve Mills, the newly appointed team President said at an introductory press conference in which Scott Perry was introduced as GM. He added, “and particularly those kinds of things because those are what we believe New York fans expect from the New York Knicks.

“We’re going to emphasize youth, athleticism, teamwork and defense. We’re committed to rebuilding a team and building a team around the young core of players that we have.”

Since that press conference on July 17, that young core has increased in size and versatility.

Ntilikina, 19, has tremendous upside because of his 6-foot-5 size and seven-foot wingspan.

Second round pick Damyean Dotson, 23, was so impressive at the Orlando Summer League that the Knicks signed him to a two-year deal. He knocked down 13-of-25 from three-point range.

Dotson’s coach at Houston, Kelvin Sampson, said the Knicks rookie is a better shooter than Courtney Lee, although Lee is a better all around player. Sampson had also coached Lee when he was an assistant with the Rockets.

Ron Baker, 24, whose relentless style made him a rookie favorite, also signed a two-year deal. Baker reminds Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek of himself; a scrappy, tenacious player with a great feel for the game.

“One thing I’ve been trying improve on is my jump shot,’’ Baker told Al Trautwig on Knicks Night Live. “I think on the defensive end I bring a lot of energy and create some havoc so hopefully this year I can shoot the ball with a little better technique and make some more open shots.’’

Luke Kornet, 22, showed remarkable three-point shooting for a 7-foot-1 center. He signed a two-way deal, which will allow the Knicks to develop him.

His coach at Vanderbilt, Bryce Drew, said Kornet could have put up more impressive stats as a senior, but Kornet is a team-first player and the Commodores ran their offense through the big man to spread the court and create mismatches.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work in the weight room,’’ Kornet told MSGNetworks.com. “I know I can help the Knicks. I want to be in the best shape of my life when training camp starts. That means getting stronger and working on every aspect of my game.’’

Tim Hardaway Jr., 25, signed a four-year, $71 million free agent deal to return to New York. The Knicks took him with the 24th pick in the 2013 draft. He’s a more mature and polished player on the verge of emerging as an elite swing man.

Hardaway could be heavily featured in New York’s offense, and he believes he’s ready.

[Robbins’ Nest: Hardaway Ready To Lead In Second Stint With Knicks]

“I know how much work I’ve put in — obviously there’s pressure, but you got to embrace it and take it to heart,” Hardaway said. “We have a young corps. I know we’re hungry. We got to play off one another and do everything we can to make it special.”

The Knicks now have an athletic group of swing players in the 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-9 range. They can make the squad more versatile on offense while being more athletic on defense.

Beasley (6-foot-9), Dotson (6-foot-5), Hardaway Jr. (6-foot-6), Mindaugas Kuzminskas (6-foot-9), Lee (6-foot-5), Ntilikina (6-foot-5), and Lance Thomas (6-foot-8) give Hornacek a lot of options on both ends of the court.

Hornacek made it clear at the Mills/Perry press conference that this year’s team will have a defensive identity. Thomas is the best defender of the group, but Hornacek is expecting every player to step up and for the Knicks to embrace a nasty disposition.

“I think one of the key things is everybody plays hard,’’ Hornacek said. “Our guys played hard last year. We want to take that level to a higher level of playing hard, what that really means.

“Through practices, through the competition, not at games, but before and after practice with guys playing one on one. We’re going to put them in situations where they are really competing. I think we all look at our young guys and say that’s what we want to see.’’

[More From Robbins’ Nest]

Mills and Perry have seemingly been everywhere and talking to everyone at once. As Mills was recently spotted watching some Team Dyckman games at NYC’s Nike Pro City, while Perry is the point man on the Carmelo Anthony discussions.

Meanwhile, Perry has filled out the staff with some really impressive basketball minds.

He named Gerald Maddens Assistant General Manager, Harris Ellis Director of Player Personnel, Craig Robinson, the brother-in-law of former President Barack Obama, Vice President of Player Development and G-League operations, Michael Arciero Director of Player Strategy and Fred Cofield as Scout.

“Last month, the day after I was hired, I started a full evaluation of the entire basketball operations staff,” Perry said in a statement. “My first goal was to build-up the highest level front office in the NBA. We are adding a host of highly-regarded and respected basketball people to work with the Knicks to fortify the franchise for years to come.”

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Red Bulls Pass on Dwyer, But Moves May Lie Ahead

The biggest trade in MLS history ended up being to be too much of a price to pay for the New York Red Bulls.

The team considered adding striker Dom Dwyer, but found the asking price to be well outside their evaluation of the All-Star forward.

A couple weeks ago, Dwyer was traded from Sporting Kansas City to Orlando City in a move that generated quite a bit of buzz. That Orlando went on to pay what potentially could be $1.6 million in allocation money for the United States international is the real sticking point of the deal.

It is far and away the most allocation money ever dealt in the history of MLS and it’s a move that sends shockwaves throughout the league. It also had an earthquake-like effect around the league on player evaluations.

According to head coach Jesse Marsch, the Red Bulls talked about pursuing Dwyer, a player who would have joined up with Bradley Wright-Phillips and created a formidable strikeforce. But while the Red Bulls were loaded with allocation money at that time, they didn’t consider the asking price for Dwyer to be within their range for one player.

Keep in mind that this past offseason, the Red Bulls traded their captain Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire for $400,000 in allocation money. It was a deal that, at the time, was among the most expensive ever between two MLS teams.

McCarty was an MLS All-Star this year, meaning that the Dwyer deal really skews the metrics.

[Dyer: Are Red Bulls Missing McCarty?]

“We had heard that Dwyer was potentially moving on, whether internationally or in the league. We visited the possibility of what it would be like to have him and then the numbers started being reported – it seemed like a lot,” Marsch said.

“The numbers are very, very surprising. Obviously, the money being tossed around in this league right now has grown immensely. It makes it a little bit harder to figure out what player’s values are within the league.

“For example, $400,000 for Dax seven months ago seemed like a lot of money and now obviously, it seems like a lot less. That makes it scary to even think about, six months from now what the numbers might look like, especially knowing that more TAM (team allocation money) is being injected and the salary cap is expected to grow.”

Jesse Marsch scouts the Red Bulls next opponent, Orlando City SC, and talks about the improvement of midfielder Sean Davis.

Wednesday saw the close of the summer transfer window for the New York Red Bulls. Despite not making any moves at the deadline, they might not be done making additions to their squad.

The bulk of the Red Bulls’ moves came earlier in the summer transfer window, signing Panamanian international Fidel Escobar and Norwegian winger Muhamed Keita. Neither player has featured for the Red Bulls as Escobar continues to work in with the team and Keita is hurt, not expected to begin training until next week.

[Dyer: Red Bulls Reload With Escobar]

Despite the end of the transfer window, the Red Bulls can still sign players. While they can’t bring in any player involving a transfer, a loan or a trade, the roster freeze date isn’t for a few more weeks. This means that they can add a free agent or a player internally.

“There’s still a window open in terms of free agents. We’ll have a couple more additions here soon. Nothing to announce by the deadline,” Marsch said. “Nothing that we felt was attractive enough to make a move on.”

Trialist Dilly Duka, the former Red Bulls Academy prospect, was signed late Wednesday afternoon.

“Dilly is a veteran player, and our staff is very familiar with him,” said Red Bulls Sporting Director Denis Hamlett in a press release. “We’ve been able to have him in training for a few weeks and we’ve liked what he has shown. He brings attacking quality and experience to our roster, and we expect him to contribute moving forward.”

Another player to keep an eye on for a potential move to the MLS side is Vincent Bezecourt.

Now in his second year with the USL side, Bezecourt continues to impress with the New York Red Bulls II and has been among the best players in the league.

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