GIACOMETTI: Five storylines to follow during RBNY's first trip to Orlando

It may not feel like it just yet (thanks Jonas), but preseason is just around the corner! As we inch closer to the season opener at Red Bull Arena on March 6, the players are returning to Hanover from all corners of the globe in preparation for another year of Red Bulls soccer. And even though we’re over a month away from MLS action, there’s still plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks as the team gets set for training in sunny Orlando, Florida.

The Supporters’ Shield title defense kicks off as the team heads south on January 25, and will you have you covered every step of the way with daily updates from training camp. So what exactly should fans be looking out for while the team prepares for the start of the 2016 campaign? Well, I’m glad you asked…

Youth is Served

The kids are all right? We’ll soon find out.

New York’s offseason acquisitions made plenty of headlines this offseason, but in a rather unorthodox manner. Instead of the glitzy, high profile stars that normally dominate the headlines, Sporting Director Ali Curtis continued the youth movement by signing seven academy products to the first team. The Red Bulls now boast 10 (count ‘em, ten!) Homegrown Players on the current roster, four more than any other MLS club as of today.

We’ve already been treated to a brief look at Tyler Adams (remember him, José?), but there are plenty of other rookies that will be looking to stir the pot and impress head coach Jesse Marsch in Orlando. Throw in 2016 SuperDraft selections Justin Bilyeu and Zach Carroll to the mix and there’s sure to be a whole lot of competition at Red Bulls camp.

Backline on the Comeback Trail

Plenty was made of New York’s potent attacking prowess in 2015, and rightly so after netting a league-best 62 goals en route to a Supporters’ Shield triumph. But the backline—anchored by Goalkeeper of the Year Luis Robles—was hardly a slouch.

Conceding an Eastern Conference low 43 goals, Marsch was often forced to plug-and-play throughout his back four over the course of the season. But as First Kick 2016 draws ever closer, some familiar faces are returning to the fold.

After suffering a broken tibia in RBNY’s 4-1 win over the New York Cosmos back in July, fullback Chris Duvall will be eager to reclaim his starting spot at right back. The Wake Forest product nearly recovered in time for New York’s playoff run, but with some extra rest under his belt, Duvall looks primed to hit the ground running in 2016.

Defensive stalwart Damien Perrinelle will continue his rehab process in the wake of his ACL reconstruction surgery. The Red Bulls lost the Frenchman to injury in the first leg of its Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against D.C. United. A key piece of the puzzle in 2015, RBNY are hoping Perrinelle’s return to the field comes sooner rather than later.

High Press: Year Two

We all know about New York’s up tempo, high-pressing, in-your-face-brand of soccer, but how will it look in Marsch’s second year at the helm? From a personnel perspective, it may well be status quo, but will opposing teams be able to more adeptly stymie the Red Bulls’ tactics with a full offseason to formulate a game plan?

On the flip side, the roster is loaded with players that know just how the system works and how it should look come match-day. Unlike preseason camp in 2015, the coaching staff won’t have the burden of implementing a new system. Instead, they can build on the success of 2015 while fine-tuning their tactics for the upcoming season.

Florida Friendlies

The games won’t count for much, but there will undoubtedly be plenty of lessons to be learned from RBNY’s six preseason matches.

The Red Bulls will lineup against local collegiate side University of South Florida of the American Athletic Conference to open up preseason on January 28. Two matchups with NASL side Jacksonville Armada are on the docket, as well as MLS clashes with the Montreal Impact, Philadelphia Union and Orlando City SC.

Marsch may well use these games to trot out some of the team’s newest signings, and you can expect plenty of substitutions throughout as the coaching staff will surely be keen on getting a look at as many players as possible.

Last season, trialist Mike Grella made the most of his opportunities in preseason action, and we all know how that worked out. Who will shine this time around?

DP à Starting XI?

When Gonzalo Veron was signed in August of last season, the Argentine became the club’s youngest ever Designated Player; one for the future. And after a 2015 campaign that saw him make just two starts, the future is now.

Veron will be looking to have a much greater impact in his first full season in New York, and it’s looking a safe bet that we’ll see lots more of him in 2016. A tricky player with pace and skill for days, Veron has had several months to acclimate to a new climate, new culture, and new teammates that should only serve to his benefit.

The flanks will be a crowded position with the likes of Grella, Sal Zizzo, Lloyd Sam and Shaun Wright-Phillips all returning, but Veron’s attacking versatility should make him an indispensible weapon for New York as they face the daunting task of competing on three fronts (MLS, USOC, CCL).



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