Ahead of Sunday's second leg of the Atlantic Cup between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls, we spoke with Steve Toto at SB Nation's Red Bulls blog Once a Metro to see how things are going in New Jersey.
Black and Red United: The Red Bulls were just as busy as D.C. was during the summer window (though they looked internationally), with two players that either are familiar with the Red Bull style of play or can step in and contribute to it with a minimum of ramp-up time. What type of expectations do fans there have of Omer Damari and Daniel Royer and, at least in Royer's case, where does he fit in a midfield that has Sacha Kljestan having a great 2016?
Once a Metro: It's a bit of a conundrum for RBNY fans. On one hand, we like to hold on to things we see have worked in the past. This is why everyone was heart broken when the front office shipped off Lloyd Sam down I-95. On the other hand, we are like the curious neighbor. When rumors with some teeth start to make their way around social media, our ears perk up and eyes widen. We're like kids at Christmas. Most of us never heard of Damari or Royer before, but when buzzwords like "DP" or "Austrian international" get tossed around, we get giddy.
Let's start with Damari. From 2006-2014, he made 219 appearances for two teams in the Israeli Premier League, netting 85 goals. Not too shabby. He had a quick stint with Austria Wien, then at the beginning of the 2015 season, he makes he way up to RB Leipzig in Germany. After ten appearances, he gets loaned to RB Salzburg. Now, he has completed his tour around all the active Red Bull soccer teams by making his way to the US (RB Ghana dissolved in 2014). He excites the fans because since Ali Curtis and Jesse Marsch have come on board, they have used the high press defense we are now accustomed to. This is now the Red Bull way. So it's not foreign to Damari since he's been in it for 18 months. He also fits the age profile of the new regime. The front office is no longer interested in "over 30s". They like the players in their mid-20's. Damari came in as a sub in RBNY's 3-1 win over Montreal Impact. He looked comfortable with RBNY's style.
Perfect segue to Daniel Royer. He is only 26 and was a teammate of Damari's at Austria Wien. He is a left winger, so that will give Mike Grella some competition or rest (depending on how you look at it). He is still fairly young, so he'll be expected to run hard box to box just like the wingers do for the team now. One drawback could be that he isn't as good as we all hope. In his nine year professional career, he will appear for his ninth team once the Red Bulls get him on the field. On Thursday, the Red Bulls Communication Specialist stated the Royer's via issues seems to be cleared up and he should be available for the game this weekend. Probably means in the 18.
B&RU: Dax McCarty goes down with a tibial plateau fracture, Sean Davis comes into his spot, and gets goals and assists (setting up new RBNY all-time leading goalscorer Bradley Wright Phillips last week). This isn't like Hoosiers where Ollie comes in and makes a whole lot of baskets during a key game, is it?
OaM: Shoot me. I don't remember much of Hoosiers. I was just shy of two year old when the movie came out. According to the synopsis on its Wikipedia page, Sean Davis is not really much like Ollie.
Davis is a homegrown player that played at Duke. A decent number of MLS players came out of college and had successful careers (Dax McCarty at UNC, Sacha Kljestan at Seton Hall and Luis Robles at University of Portland to name a few). Davis can be lumped in with them. When Dax or Felipe Martins have been injured, suspended or needed a rest day the last two seasons, Davis has been there to step in. He's not the typical MLS backup in that coaches pray that the player just holds on for dear life during their 90 minutes. He is very capable and is someone that can be trusted to pick up the slack. Dax will be out another 5 or so weeks. Sean Davis will be getting many of those starts in his absence.
B&RU: Speaking of young RBNY kids, Alex Muyl seems to be fending off Gonzalo Veron as far as a spot in the starting XI goes. How much of it is Muyl playing well, and/or Veron underperforming?
OaM: Muyl is another homegrown player that has stepped in to the RBNY starting XI and turned heads. He may be the sole reason that Lloyd Sam was shipped out. If he was inconsistent, they would need a tag team between he and Sam in order to get through 90 minutes in most games. Sort of how Veron and Grella did late last season.
To your question about Muyl's and Veron's performance, I would say it is a bit of both. When Veron came into the mix last year, it was almost assumed that he would swap the wings with Grella and Sam. People may think he is underperforming, but it could be that he isn't playing in a position he prefers. It seems that his goals have come alongside Bradley Wright-Phillips in a 4-4-2, or substituting for BWP in their standard 4-2-3-1. He has a knack for running into traffic and not making the best decision with the ball in traffic. When he's out on an island, he seems to perform much better.
Notable Injuries: Connor Lade (torn ACL - out for rest of season), Gideon Baah (broken leg - out for rest of season), Dax McCarty (broken leg - out 4-5 more weeks), Damien Perrinelle (knee/ankle injury - out 4-5 weeks)
Predicted Starting XI: Luis Robles; Chris Duvall, Ronald Zubar, Aurelien Collin, Kemar Lawrence; Sean Davis, Felipe Martins; Omer Damari, Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella; Bradley Wright-Phillips
Score: 1-1 draw
For my responses to their queries, feel free to check it out here.