Jesse Marsch: Making the Grade
Certainly facing challenges with the situation he walked into, Jesse Marsch deserves high praise for the way he’s navigated his first month on the job.
Marsch has been honest but instructive with players. He’s made clear that the team’s success will not be down to the work of individuals but rather the collective group. After two weeks, the buy-in from the squad is there in droves.
Marsch will be the first to admit there’s a lot of work still to be done but after walking into what was a difficult situation, he’s brought his team through its first camp as a stronger overall unit, heading in the right direction with his up-tempo, high paced style -- a big win overall.
Sacha Kljestan: Great Addition
Although his stay in Orlando was brief, Sacha Kljestan showed early on why a number of MLS sides were interested in moving up the Allocation Ranking to select him.
The U.S. international forced the attack in Thursday’s friendly win vs. Toronto FC, involving himself in nearly every quality opportunity Red Bulls had during the match. While he played centrally, just behind forward Bradley-Wright Phillips, whether he remains there remains to be seen.
Marsch has intimated that Kljestan’s more permanent role may come on the left side of midfield. Now that fellow newcomer Felipe has his visa and will begin training with the team in Hanover this week, we’ll see more development in this area.
Stock Spike: Mike Grella & Sal Zizzo
In terms of raising their stock, the two players that shot up the charts in Orlando were these two.
A small knock kept Zizzo out of Thursday’s friendlies vs. Toronto FC and Jacksonville Armada but his return to health will make Marsch’s decision about his two outside midfielders very difficult, when taking into consideration Kljestan will likely be one of them.
Meanwhile, whether in training or friendly matches, Grella’s finishing has been very strong. On a team that needs a few more forwards, he seems an obvious choice. No trialist showed as well as the Glen Cove product the past two weeks.
Center Backs: Questions Still Remain
I wrote at the start of camp that this spot more than any had the most question marks. The Orlando phase of preseason saw the team begin to fill out the area, signing Ronald Zubar, Andrew Jean-Baptiste and re-signing Damien Perrinelle. Ibrahim Sekagya also remains in the mix after serving as a guest player in Orlando while Armando, who remains on the roster but didn’t join the team for camp, waits for his future to be sorted out.
And with that, questions still remain.
Thought to be one of the first-choice center backs when the season starts, Zubar is still awaiting his visa. Perinelle was the only constant in the middle during the first team friendlies this past week, partnering with Sekagya against USF and Jean-Baptiste vs. Toronto FC.
A French center back pairing could be in the cards to start the season, though Zubar’s arrival will do a lot more to dictate the direction in the middle.