It’s preseason in the MLS, and with it, an influx of new talent. While many are focused on the incoming stars expected to break into their team’s starting 11, savvy fans are also watching how their teams build out the reserves. The return of the reserve league to the MLS is seen as critical for MLS teams to compete in tournaments and friendlies outside the league schedule. The expanded roster gives teams the ability to rest key players and to minimize risks due to injuries. The challenge is to find the right talented young players to fill out the new roster spots. It seems that the Red Bulls are stepping up to the challenge quite well.
First, we have our standout Baby Bulls from the last year. They had a pretty good run in the Open Cup, winning 3 matches against MLS teams before losing to Harrisburg City Islanders. Most recognizable at the moment is Juan Agudelo, an 18 year old who recently scored in his first international match against South Africa, breaking the record for the youngest player in US national team history to score a goal. His team mates from last year include Irving Garcia, Austin da Luz, and Conner Chinn, all draft picks from the 2009 MLS drafts. Tony Tchani and Tim Ream both graduated early to Full Bull status; Tim Ream doing so in a grand fashion by playing every minute of every MLS game.
Next, we seem to have picked up a few potential gems in the MLS drafts. Stealing Cory Hertzog from the PU (the Philadelphia Union), snagging a talented baby Rooney in John Rooney, and hoping to find the next Tim Ream in Tyler Lassieter. Additionally, we picked up a few outside backs in Billy Cortes and Teddy Schneider, and goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer. Now, most of these guys don’t have contracts yet, so it will be interesting to see which ones survive the cut. Given the level of talent in our baby pool, it’s sure to be a hard job.
Then, we’ve got the young internationals Brien Nielsen and Marco Paullo. Brien is a Danish midfielder that showed a glimpse of poise, speed and talent in the midfield before being sidelined with a nagging knee injury. Paullo is a Brazilian kid that was on trial last summer. He’s an attack minded mid-fielder, just what we need. He’s sure to bring the Brazilian flair and style to our reserve team, and maybe even our first team. My first impression of him was based on watching him executed a perfect back heel pass against Manchester City in the Barclay’s New York Challenge. The confidence and poise and pure poetry of a kid coming into a packed stadium off the bench and executing a back heel pass… I digress.
Finally, we’ve got the Home Grown players. We’re leading the league with four home grown signings. They are, in order of signing, Giorgi Chirgadzi, Juan Agudelo, Matt Kassel, and Sacir Hot. I’ve already mentioned Juan’s achievements above. Giorgi spent last year recovering from injury, but Hans Backe has said some good things about his left foot. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in the reserve league games. Matt Kassel is the on-again, off-again rumor that finally came true. At one point in time, he was rumored to be the first home grown signing. He went to Maryland instead, and had three stellar years there and in the U20s.
This all boils down to 13 currently signed under the age of 24, and 5 or 6 fighting it out for a roster spot. We’ve got depth in the all over the field. I almost feel sorry for our opponents, surely to be gored by our baby bulls. I can’t wait.