Red Bulls gear up for 2014

It seems that the 2014 New York Red Bulls adopted the theme of ‘defense’ in its effort to improve on a relatively successful season last year. The Red Bulls won the MLS Supporter’s Shield for the first time, the trophy for the best regular season record, and went on to make an appearance in the play-offs.

In attempting to rebuild and strengthen its defense, one of the team’s first moves was to re-sign its 2013 defensive player of the year, Jamison Olave. The two-time MLS Best XI selection and 2010 MLS Defender of the Year had a very good season with the Red Bulls in 2013; he played in 29 games and scored four goals. Olave will get help from returnee Kosuke Kimura, who has the ability to play at both outside back positions, left and right, and is a good team person. Also returning to shore up the new defense is Costa Rican defender Roy Miller, who mans the left side of the back line. Ibrahim Sekagya and Connor Lade are defenders who are also capable of making substantial contributions in midfield; both players are expected to carry on in their dual roles. Goalkeeper Luis Robles is also back and will be supported in goal by Ryan Meara.

Among the other new faces that are expected to strengthen the defensive line substantially are Armando Lozano Sanchez, Richard Eckersley and Chris Duval. Armando is an experienced central defender who is expected to partner Olave. “Armando provides us with another experienced option at center back and we are delighted to have agreed to terms with him,” said Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh. “He has played at a good level for many years, serving as the captain for Barcelona’s B team.” Eckersley was traded from Toronto FC and Duvall was drafted 22nd overall from Wake Forest University.

Midfielders are part of the defense and returnees Eric Alexander and Dax McCarty, who both spent a substantial part of the off-season improving their game as members of the U.S. national team that went to Brazil for a January training camp, should be in good form to kick off the season. Both midfielders, who are seeking places on the World Cup team, will get help from Aussie Tim Cahill, last year’s leading scorer, Jonny Steele, and Lloyd Sam, who was impressive the second half of last season; newly acquired former USA international midfielder Bobby Convey, brought in from Toronto FC, is another major addition to the midfield, and so is Eric Stevenson, drafted 34th overall out of the University of Akron.

On the front line, Captain Thierry Henry, Peguy Luyindula, André Akpan and Englishman Bradley Wright-Phillips, along with newcomer Marius Obekop, are expected to carry the scoring load. Gone from the team are forward Fabian Espindola and defenders Markus Holgersson, Brandon Barklage, David Carney and Heath Pearce. Goal keeper Kevin Hartman retired.

In putting the pieces together, head coach Mike Petke, assistant Robin Fraser and the Red Bulls headed south to Florida and in its first game on Feb. 12, in Jacksonville, it knocked off the Philadelphia Union, 2-1, at Ever Bank Field on goals from winger Sam and Henry. A week later, it was on to the Disney Pro Classic in Orlando, where the Red Bulls suffered a 1-0 loss to Eastern conference rival Sporting KC; the Red Bulls, three days after, topped the Montreal Impact, 3-2, at the same venue.

The team was scheduled to play the Under-23 squad from Brazilian club Fluminense FC on Sat. March 1, at the same venue to close out the preseason. The Red Bulls kick off the 2014 campaign on Saturday, March 8 at Vancouver and then return for the home opener on Saturday, March 15 versus the Colorado Rapids at 4:00 p.m. at Red Bull Arena

BAYERN MUNICH IN NEW YORK

German club Bayern Munich, which will play the MLS All-Stars in Portland in July, announced recently that it will open an office in New York this spring. Club officials say that Bayern wants to build a presence in North America as part of an “internationalization drive.” Former Bayern reserve goalkeeper and dual German-American citizen Rudolf Vidal will lead the Manhattan office, which, according to club officials, will be focused on growing the Bavarian club’s brand and crafting new partnerships.

“I’m delighted to be taking on this substantial and exciting assignment on behalf of FC Bayern,” said Vidal in a statement. “We want to help in consolidating and continuing to develop the club’s international reputation.”

The club wants to reach new fans in the USA, Canada and other areas in the region.

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