We have meaningful soccer again!!!
The Vancouver Whitecaps are readying to take on the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals on Wednesday at Red Bull Stadium in New Jersey, with the second leg to be played in Vancouver on March 2nd.
To help us better understand the enemy, we spoke with Steve Toto of fellow SBnation site Once a Metro.
86Forever: Tell me your outlook for the NYRB this season. How competitive will you be?
Steve Toto: This team has done this to me the past three years. But no joke, it's ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
They ditch their captain. They ditch their Sporting Director. Their preseason was fragmented due to the birth of Sacha Kljestan & Bradley Wright-Phillips' kids and Kljestan & Luis Robles in USMNT camp. I really have no idea what kind of team we are going to get this season.
Since the beginning of 2013, we have been pretty lucky. Two Supporters' Shields (2013 & 2015), another season of the Eastern Conference's best record (2016) and an Eastern Conference finals appearance (2014). The team does seem to know what they are doing, but they haven't gotten the monkey off their backs by winning MLS Cup yet. I believe they will be competitive. We may get some lengthy losing streaks at some point, but this team gives me no reason to think they will miss the playoffs. My prediction is a 3rd place finish in the East.
86F: How about significant roster additions and subtractions?
ST: Let's start with subtractions: the biggest one is midfielder & captain Dax McCarty. He was sent to the Chicago Fire in late January (the same weekend as his wedding). RBNY also lost youngster Chris Duvall in the Expansion Draft to Minnesota United. And even though he's in the front office, Sporting Director Ali Curtis was also dismissed. No replacement for him yet.
Additions: honestly, no real big names. RBNY did grab Michael Amir Murillo on a season-long loan from San Francisco (Panama). Murillo is a 21 year-old right back with nine senior caps for Panama, scoring once. Otherwise, most of the names are either homegrown players, rookies picked up in the SuperDraft or ones that played with NYRB II last season.
86F: Do you have a breakout player to watch for this season?
ST: Two breakout players this season could be Sean Davis and Gonzalo Veron. Davis played in 21 games last year, mostly showcasing while McCarty was injured in the middle of the season. Davis is most likely going to be alongside Felipe as CDM in the team's 4-2-2-2 formation. If Davis can duplicate 2016 into a full 2017 effort, the Red Bulls will be in good shape.
Fans have been waiting a year and a half to get Veron going. Now may be the time. He didn't do a great job as a winger in the 4-2-3-1, but with the switch to the 4-2-2-2, Veron will be moved up top alongside Wright-Phillips. Since BWP will definitely draw a lot of attention, it may open things up for Veron. He has had a solid preseason. We hope it can lead to good things in 2017.
First kick is at 5 pm. The match will be streamed on the CONCACAF facebook page.