There will be changes for the New York Red Bulls, this after the team squeaked into the playoffs and had some struggles throughout the year.
But despite a difficult year, the core of the team hopes to remain.
Few – if any – have been as pivotal to the Red Bulls success over the past four years as Bradley Wright-Phillips. The striker has tallied a staggering 86 goals during a stretch of five years in the league, a mark that makes him one of the best strikers in league history.
It would seem a no-brainer for Wright-Phillips and other high-profile players to return, but this will be an offseason of difficult decisions for New York.
Wright-Phillips will turn 33-years-old during the early run of next season, perhaps lining up for a tough choice for the Red Bulls and head coach Jesse Marsch at some point. But with no signs of decline, Wright-Phillips wants to be back with a young Red Bulls team next year and make another run at the MLS Cup.
He’s been healthy over the past four years and produces, plus he has shown a willingness to adapt to Marsch’s formation switch which he introduced three years ago.
“I don’t want it to get too young and I don’t want to be that old guy. If the players are good and they come in, it is what it is no matter how old they are,” Wright-Phillips said last week.
“Let’s not make it too young, I still want that space in the locker room.”
With no decline in mobility, Wright-Phillips certainly seems to be able to offer a team in rebuilding mode something for 2018 and perhaps beyond. He scored 17 goals for the Red Bulls last year to lead the team, and this was done with limited service as the midfield struggled to create chances and opportunities.
The Englishman has a high level of fitness and continues to produce, elements that are key for a Red Bulls team that values work rate within their high-press system.
This past offseason, the Red Bulls made some difficult choices. Most notably, they traded away captain Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire, ushering in a new era for the organization.
New players such as Michael Amir Murillo and Fidel Escobar as well as Aaron Long (formerly on the USL team) all played significant roles on the team. Other young players such as Sean Davis and Tyler Adams all played career-high minutes.
What this means is that the core of this team is young and improving. The Red Bulls are optimistic that this young core can take another step forward to blend with team’s core players such as Sacha Kljestan, Felipe Martins, Luis Robles, Daniel Royer and of course Wright-Phillips.
“It’s definitely exciting for the way that we ended the season. Look how far we’ve gotten, like I said we were written off,” Wright-Phillips said. “When we’ve got a full squad and these guys with that experience we’ve had from this season, I think we’re a force to be reckoned with. I think we were good at a lot of times this season so yeah, it’s exciting.”