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New York Red Bulls 2023: As The Curtain Rises, So Do The Expectations

photo by Matt Kremkau
by Garry Redman

HARRISON - The New York Red Bulls staged their annual Media Day for the press corps as the 28th season of Major League Soccer draws near for fans and players alike, eager to make this season the season that the elusive championship trophy is finally secured.

The team is mostly the same young and hungry group that finished fourth in the Eastern Conference, well above the expectations of the “experts,” making MLS Cup Playoffs for the 13th consecutive time in a row. 

However, like all seasons previously, the team fell well short of its lofty goals as they were immediately removed from the playoffs, this time by FC Cincinnati, 2-1. So, changes were made by the brass to improve their fortunes this time around, with forward Patryk Klimala and defender Aaron Long parting ways and MLS veteran forward Cory Burke, Designated Player, and Belgian international Dante Vanzier filling the void. Hopefully, addressing an offensive issue that was sorely needed to be resolved.

The Red Bulls presented Dante Vanzier to the media contingent just a few days after they announced central defender and native Long Islander Sean Nealis as the 15th captain in club history. Dante wasted no time addressing the media and sharing his goals on leading his skills to improve the club on the way to winning MLS Cup.

“Their ambitions, their style of play, and the club’s culture attracted me to come here. It fits my style, too, which was one of the main reasons to join this club. And besides that, the MLS is a league that also fits me. I wanted to get my chance and prove myself in the competition.”

We asked him what was the one thing he was looking forward to in what he called his “next adventure”? 

“Oh, I’m really looking forward to meeting all the fans in the stadium. We have a nice fanbase. I’m realistic but also ambitious. And without putting pressure on myself, 15 goals per season as a striker is a good number, and I aim for that every year.”

Next, we caught up with newly appointed team captain Sean Nealis on his journey and overall future with the team: 

“It’s an honor to be captain of the Red Bulls. I love playing here, and I love representing this club. I’ve learned a lot from the two guys that captained this squad before me, and hopefully, I can do as good a job as they did. I want to play here for as long as I can. I love playing here. I love that I’m from New York and represent the New York Red Bulls game in and out, and I want to be here for as long as possible.

We talked with midfielder Lewis Morgan about his personal goals this season, his new partnership with Dante Vanzier, and the Leagues Cup, which they will be playing this season:

“It’s trying to improve on last year. I know I’ve got more levels in my game to be challenging as one of the best players in this league. First and foremost, just to be as successful in team play as far as I can and try to challenge the top goal scorers in the league. 

Yeah, obviously, it’s an exciting sign for us. It was Dante’s first day today, so the boys made him feel welcome, and I’m looking forward to playing with him out there, as I am with all my teammates. Yeah, I’m sure he can come, and he can help to help the squad and help us achieve our goals.

It’s a chance to hopefully go on a cup run like we did last year in the Open Cup and try to win some silverware. That’s what these tournaments are about. Anytime a footballer gets to play more games, you will never hear us complaining. It’s an exciting new competition. No one really knows how it’s going to work out. But yeah, it’s exciting. Like I said, we were also hoping to get a good result in that competition.”

Finally, we spoke with midfielder Daniel Edelman about the upcoming season, the competition within the team, and its expectations for this season:

“Yeah, I am super excited. I look forward to continuing where I left off last season and helping the team in any way possible. 

There is definitely a lot of good competition. Yeah, there is the six with Cristian [Casseres, Jr.], Dru [Yearwood], Frankie [Amaya], and Peter [Stroud], he is a great addition, and it is going to be really exciting. We are all going to battle in training, and we all know that we can get the job done. So, it is going to be a fun year. 

One of the goals that Coach Struber and the other coaches wanted to let us know early in the preseason was that we would try to control the ball this year and find more solutions with our play on the ball. Last year, it was too direct at times. We are not going to stop that at all. That is a crucial principle and, in our philosophy, to play direct and get at our opponents as quickly as possible.”

If I were so bold as to use a word that hasn’t been mentioned in quite some time, that would be “optimism.” This is a feeling that this fanbase has exhibited since, well, during the Jesse Marsch era, where the overall aim was to finish the season better than before. The team addressed a severe need going in this season, but at the expense of the defense that has, in some cases, often not rescued victories from the jaws of defeat. 

The feeling also comes with some expectations, not necessarily in the short term but more for the long term. The team wants to gain respect within the league and from their beleaguered fanbase. As the curtain rises for 2023, the supporters hope this could be the start of something special, even if it ends similarly. 



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