|photo by Matt Kremkau
by Anthony J. Merced
New York Red Bulls head coach Troy Lesesne is making a case to be the team's permanent boss in 2024 after taking the team to their 14th consecutive playoff berth on the final game of the MLS season. Despite losing key players Dante Vanzeir and Lewis Morgan for a majority of the season, Lesesne has been able to coordinate a strong defense with timely scoring to make the team a dark horse contender in this year's playoffs.
"We're in good form right now," said Lesesne after the win over Nashville on Saturday. "We have to get ourselves reset, physically and mentally. The guys, I can see that they're happy, but they're also exhausted. We've got to get back home and take care of ourselves because I'm very happy to give our fans another home match."
Lesesne will attempt to recharge a Red Bulls team that enters the game against Charlotte FC as favorites. The two teams played home and away, both games producing draws. Red Bulls have the better defense this season having allowed more than half the goals that Charlotte has in league play. Scoring goals is where the visiting opponents will have the advantage having scored more than a goal in three of their last four games.
While the spotted history in the playoffs will certainly haunt New York heading into this one-game playoffs, feelings around the club are that something special may be starting. Players like John Tolkin, Omir Fernandez, Elias Manoel and Tom Barlow have found their form. The partnership of Sean Nealis and Andres Reyes is stifling the opposition as well.
"This is a special club," said Lesesne. "I'm happy to extend our history, but that does not distract us from the fact that we have to do better and put ourselves in a better position. How we're going to do that is by investing more, and I don't mean just as a financial statement. I mean time, thoughtfulness, energy and everything we do because that's what the club deserves."