UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Last season, the Red Bulls became the first club in MLS history to sign and field three designated players. The star-studded New York team finished atop the Eastern Conference in the 2010 regular season before their pricey roster was bounced from the playoffs by a total team effort from the San Jose Earthquakes.
Now, it appears that Red Bulls are content to build a balanced roster without quite as much star power.
This offseason, the Red Bulls released Colombian Juan Pablo Angel, one of the most prolific strikers in league history and perhaps the most successful DP. As of now, his spot as a Designated Player will be filled by no one.
“I don’t think we really need a third DP right now,” head coach Hans Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m rather content with the roster we have right now.”
[inline_node:332983]The trade for Dwayne De Rosario this past Friday, a player largely considered one of the best attacking midfielders in MLS history, might have something to do with that.
De Rosario won’t count as a Designated Player, but Backe sees him as having the same type of on-field impact as Thierry Henry or Rafa Marquez, the club’s two designated players this season. Both Henry and Marquez were signed in the middle of 2010.
“He’s a rather top-class player, you can see it in that goal on Saturday,” Backe said referencing De Rosario’s second-half assist to Dane Richards in a 1-1 tie vs. Houston. “He has wonderful vision and he’s always, always pushing forward from the midfield.”
In March, both Backe and sporting director Erik Soler said that they were looking at names for a third DP, while at the same time conceding there was no movement to bring in another high profile player like Henry or Marquez.
The club, with additions like Teemu Tainio, Jan Gunnar Solli, Luke Rodgers and De Rosario, is shifting away from big names with more of an emphasis on the team approach this year. None of the new faces are considered big draws.
Backe doesn’t plan a big signing unless it has to be done.
“I’d say it’s like that,” Backe said. “I haven’t thought about it much at the moment, but we have a decent roster. We have depth at every position. I’m really rather happy with what we have and the balance within the club. I don’t see the need to make a rather big change.”
The strategy seems to mirror that of Real Salt Lake, where the phrase “The team is the star” is the ethos the franchise lives by. Soler admires the work that Jason Kreis’ club puts together on the field.
“I would say I was not very comfortable watching Salt Lake the other day,” Soler said. “They are a massive team.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer