Following a successful 2013 campaign which saw the New York Red Bulls capture their first MLS Supporters’ Shield, the team reported to preseason camp on Friday at Red Bull Arena full of anticipation and excitement. Compared with prior years, this offseason was fairly quiet ... and for good reason.
For second year head coach Mike Petke, keeping the core of the team together this offseason was important after having such a successful regular season last year, one in which the Red Bulls led MLS in goals and collected the most points in the regular season.
“I think it was very important for us to keep this team together. If you look back on the history of this club, even before it was Red Bull, what you would see is major changes every offseason and listen, my philosophy, along with Andy [Roxburgh] and the whole staff and organization now is no secret, we’re looking to change certain things, our personality, identity, the way things have been handled, and this is one thing that I didn’t feel that we needed to do just for the sake of it,” said Petke. I feel comfortable with the players that I have.”
Stability in the squad was one of the many items that were discussed, as several members of the Red Bulls spoke to the media Friday:
Roxburgh praises Petke’s first year
Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh had nothing but praise for MLS Coach of the Year finalist Petke following the former New York defender’s rookie campaign.
“I saw something in Mike right away when we worked for about two weeks out on the field there last year, last November, and it was off the back of that that I decided that maybe we should go local here. Mike clearly, he’s got the heart for it, he’s got the character, he’s passionate about this club and its fans, he knows MLS and all of those qualities came into play during the last year. They were all important qualities,” said Roxburgh.
Roxburgh and Henry talk about team aspirations
Roxburgh hopes for continued success and more titles this season, including the MLS Cup, Open Cup, and Supporters’ Shield. The Red Bulls will also participate in the CONCACAF Champions League later in the year.
“We would want to be a title winner again, MLS Cup, [Supporters’] Shield, Open Cup, all three to be greedy, but we would like to be a title winner, we would like to qualify for the final stages of the Champions League, which of course will be a new ballgame for most of the guys in the room in here, so we would like to do that as well,” said Roxburgh, who is now in his second season with the club.
This offseason, Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry spent time training at Arsenal. Henry, an All-Star who was a finalist for MLS Goal of the Year, started in 27 games for the Red Bulls last season. He scored 10 goals and recorded nine assists while making the MLS All Star team for the third-consecutive season.
“All we can do is try to stay consistent, build on what we did last year, winning the [Supporters’] Shield, and do way better by trying to win the MLS Cup,” said Henry. “I guess the difference is that this year he [head coach Mike Petke] had more time to prepare exactly what he wanted to, or what he wants to do for the season and like I said, I guess it was in their minds to keep kind of the same group around to carry on what they want to do this year. For one of the first times since I’m here I can actually know the guys in our dressing room.”
Cahill prepares for busy World Cup season
New York Red Bulls midfielder and MLS Best XI selection Tim Cahill is looking forward to his second full season in Major League Soccer. Last season, he was voted as the team MVP by local members of the media and he was also led the team in regular-season goals with 11. On Friday, Cahill discussed potentially playing in the World Cup for Australia this summer and his preparation for each match he plays.
“I think the best thing for me; I’ve had the experience of playing in two World Cups prior. I feel the best preparation is going into every competition the same. This season will definitely be the same as last season, every season I’ve ever done is making sure my body is in great form and then applying myself to the best of my capacity and playing like it’s my last game every game,” said Cahill.
Convey looking to contribute to New York
For newly acquired Red Bulls midfielder Bobby Convey, getting a chance to play closer to his family in Philadelphia made it impossible to say no to coming to New York from Toronto FC.
“At this point in my career to be this close to my family on a winning team is really cool especially that I’ll be having a son in May,” the former U.S. International said. “So, that’s a pretty cool thing, like I said, to be on a winning team and my family can come watch the games again. It will be good for them to get up [from Philadelphia] and kind of intermingle my personal life and professional life again. I’ve been trying to get closer to home for a while now.”