The New York Red Bulls enter the 2022 MLS season looking to reach the Playoffs for a 13th consecutive year.
Despite never winning MLS Cup, RBNY have an incredible record of making the post-season and did so again in 2021, somewhat against the odds.
Will it be unlucky 13 this time around, or does fate have something different in store?
Here's everything you need to know about the New York Red Bulls ahead of the new MLS season, including tactics, key players, and predictions.
How did New York Red Bulls perform in 2021?
For a while, it looked like we were going to be without the Red Bulls in the post-season for the first time since 2009. But then their defense tightened up, the press gained cohesion and, overall, Gerhard Struber's methods began sinking in.
New York enjoyed a run of just one defeat in their final 12 regular-season games, with seven clean sheets and six one-goal wins. That came after a stretch of one win in 11. 'Fine margins' is the best way to describe the 2021 Red Bulls season.
Unfortunately, those fine margins went the other way in Round One of the Playoffs, as they crashed out in extra-time against the Philadelphia Union thanks to a 123rd-minute Jakob Glesnes goal.
New York Red Bulls transfer activity
- Luquinhas (from Legia Warsaw, $3.5m)
- Lewis Morgan (from Inter Miami, $1,2m)
- Dylan Nealis (from Nashville SC, $125k)
- Zachary Ryan (from Stanford Cardinal, free transfer)
- Jesus Castellano (from Yaracuyanos U20, free transfer)
- Seth Kuhn (SuperDraft)
- Matthew Nocita (SuperDraft)
- Giannis Nikopolidis (SuperDraft)
- O'Vonte Mullings (SuperDraft)
- Carlos Coronel (from RB Salzburg, undisc.)
- Caden Clark (from RB Leipzig, loan)
- Tom Edwards (from Stoke City, loan)
- Kyle Duncan (to KV Oostende, free transfer)
- Sean Davis (to Nashville SC, free transfer)
- Mathias Jorgensen (to Esbjerg, free transfer)
- Issiar Drame (to PFK Lviv, free transfer)
- Jake LaCava (to Tampa Bay Rowdies, loan)
- Daniel Royer (released)
- Luca Lewis (released)
Gerhard Struber: Tactics and style of play
Obviously, Red Bulls press. It's what they're known for and it's what they're best at. No other team in MLS applied more pressures on the opposition than Struber's side (6,531) during the 2021 regular-season and, at times, it is a truly spectacular sight to behold.
Struber tends to opt for a 4-2-3-1 formation, giving him a four-man forward line to cut out passes from defense to midfield, while two holding midfielders restrict space behind the opposing striker. Losing attack-minded full-backs Kyle Duncan and Andrew Gutman will be tough, but in Tom Edwards and John Tolkin RBNY have replacements familiar with Struber's system and proven in MLS.
To beat the Red Bulls you have to be composed, patient, and extremely precise with the ball. Given the various conditions in play in MLS, that's not always possible.
New York Red Bulls predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Coronel; Edwards, S. Nealis, Long, Tolkin; Yearwood, Casseres Jr; Fernandez, Luquinhas, Morgan; Klimala.
Who are New York Red Bulls' key players?
Cristian Casseres Jr
Cristian Casseres has always been well known for his industry but, last season especially, he's proved he can be a real threat with the ball, too. The Venezuelan hit six goals and three assists during the regular-season, ranked third among Red Bulls players for successful dribbles (27), and averaged 0.30 xG+xA per 90 minutes - not bad for a supposed 'holding midfielder'.
Casseres is at that perfect age where one more strong MLS season will have European clubs lining up for his signature, adding that extra bit of motivation.
Only three teams in the Eastern Conference scored fewer goals than the Red Bulls during the 2021 regular-season, so it's no surprise they went out in Round One of the Playoffs with a 1-0 defeat.
It's also no surprise to see the Red Bulls spend $3.5m to sign Brazilian playmaker Luquinhas in an attempt to remedy that issue.
The 25-year-old joins after a 110-game spell with Legia Warsaw that saw him score 10 goals and assist another 18. Most importantly, according to Gerhard Struber, Luquinhas will create space for those around him and pull the opposition out of shape.
Whatever it takes to get the Red Bulls moving in the final third...
...speaking of which, the signing of Lewis Morgan might just be one of the best pieces of business in MLS this winter.
2021 was a little slow but in 2020, the Scottish winger was electric, hitting five goals and five assists in 23 regular-season appearances to help fire Inter Miami into the Playoffs in year one - albeit in an extended Playoff field.
Morgan offers speed and a goal threat, while he's just as happy racing to the endline to cross as he is cutting inside to test the opposition goalkeeper himself. He'll offer Struber a bunch of options in the attacking third.
New York Red Bulls 2022 season prediction
For the Red Bulls, everything will come down to how much better they are in attack. They'll remain solid, even more so as Aaron Long gains match fitness, but can they test the opposition enough?
Morgan could be a great signing, while Luquinhas will add an element of craft, even if he is unproven in MLS. Is Patryk Klimala the man to rely on for regular goals?
A lot of unknowns but if the big attacking questions aren't answered, it'll be a first post-season on the sidelines since 2009 for New York Red Bulls.
Prediction: 9th in the Eastern Conference