BRADENTON, Fla. – Along with implementing a different style of play this preseason, Jesse Marsch, with the support of Sporting Director Ali Curtis, has taken a deeper dive in providing a longer-lasting system to be built upon in the coming years.
While he works to build a successful starting XI that can come out of the gates strong March 8 at Sporting KC, a bigger part of the work is building the supplement to the first group, coming largely from the youngsters in camp.
“We’re trying to build this from the top but we’re also building from underneath,” Marsch told NewYorkRedBulls.com this week. “We need to supplement players be it this year or next year, or the year after. We have a system in place that allows for the evolution and growth of players so this is sustainable not from our best 11 but down through USL and the Academy.
“We’re looking at younger guys and saying, ‘This is what this looks like now, what will he look like two years from now? Does he have the potential to fit into the system like a Dax [McCarty] or Sacha [Kljestan] can?’”
One player that fits this question perfectly is new Homegrown signing Sean Davis. A product of the Red Bulls Academy, Duke University and veteran of the club’s U-23 side which won the 2014 NPSL Championship, Davis’ growth in the club, along with many summer training sessions last year, brought a lot of familiarity when he began training camp last month.
“The Academy really prepared me for this moment,” Davis told NewYorkRedBulls.com Thursday. “Going back to the summer where I was with the team almost every day, that’s really helped me transition and feel comfortable with the guys. Dating back to my high school days where it was such a professional environment at such a young age, I think it was really important for this experience now.”
One person in camp that knows Davis best is assistant coach John Wolyniec whose work with the Holmdel, N.J. product goes back to his time spent with the Red Bulls Academy in 2010.
“When I came to the Academy Sean was one of our better players at that time,” he said. “Sean is very eager to get better, very eager to learn, he’s an intelligent kid. One of the reasons I was very high on him the whole time I was working with him was I knew he wasn’t a finished product, he was a guy that was going to continue to grow.
“I’ve been very impressed with how quickly he’s adjusted and how quickly he’s been finding a comfort zone at this level.”
Davis certainly showed some comfort in training on Thursday. Playing in a small-sided game, the central midfielder took some space before curling a beautiful right-footed effort inside the top right corner, bringing a series of gasps to the IMG Academy training ground.
Those moments certainly don’t hurt his case for trying to earn time with the first team during his rookie year, but it’ll still be a challenge.
A central midfielder by trade, Davis says he most looks up to guys that play the same position as he does like McCarty, Kljestan, Felipe and Peguy Luyindula. Rated with fellow rookie Leo Stolz as two of the top central midfielders in college soccer last year, the team’s depth in the middle of the park is strong, providing some traffic to first team minutes.
Fortunately enough for Davis and fellow Homegrown signings Connor Lade, Matt Miazga and Santiago Castaño, New York Red Bulls II, the club’s entry in the USL, will launch this season. While there are trialists and Academy players that have been in camp under consideration for the roster, a player like Davis could stand to benefit the most from the club’s newest player development venture.
“There are guys that will make this roster who will need the opportunity in USL to get good minutes and push themselves from a game perspective,” Marsch said.
Whether Davis gets more time with the first team or Red Bulls II, it’s plain to see he’s one of the young players Marsch and his staff are building that much talked about, sustainable system around. More than that, because of the club’s continuity in player development, he’s quite happy with how his first pro season has started out.
“The group is great, the guys are awesome, I couldn’t ask for a better environment from the staff to the players,” he said. “I feel pretty comfortable and the transition has been pretty seamless overall.”