|Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis and Head Coach Jesse Marsch. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Red Bulls had a successful regular season, as they finished with the top record in the Eastern Conference.
They overcame a 1-6-0 start and went 15-3-9 to finish 16-9-9, with 57 points. They finished with the best home record in MLS (13-2-2) and with the best goal differential (+17).
They were the hottest team entering the playoffs, as they closed the regular season on a 16-game unbeaten streak.
The Red Bulls had a pair of league-leaders, as Bradley Wright-Phillips won the Golden Boot award with 24 goals, and Sacha Kljestan led the league with 19 assists.
In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, they ran into the Montreal Impact, and they lost the first leg 1-0 on the road before losing at home, 2-1.
The Red Bulls won the Supporters' Shield for best record in the MLS in Head Coach Jesse Marsch's first season at the helm in 2015, and they lost to the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Marsch, in his season-ending press conference on Thursday, said of what it wiil take for them to get over the hump, "Yeah I mean if you were to really dig into this last playoff series, which obviously we have, the frustration is that we, in everything we've done it's been to try and prepare this team and this group to be successful, not in the regular season but in the playoffs. So to come up as short as we did is very disappointing, and yeah, that's what we're trying to ask ourselves.
"What is that that we need, and you could say listen, that's what this organization has been asking for 21 years, but I think we know we have a lot of the pieces in place, and a philosophy and a group that has what it takes, but trying to understand. Listen if you go back through, sometimes it's a team being hot at the right time, sometimes it's having big players make big plays at the right time.
"We had two MVP candidates this year (Wright-Phillips, Kljestan), right, so we think we have the type of players to make big plays. We won our last four games, I think, going into the playoffs and we were 20 unbeaten, so we thought we had momentum. To have it derailed in two games and to lose twice in the playoffs, it's almost unfathomable and it doesn't make sense, it's incomprehensible. We have to now take certain lessons and figure out how to add to this in a way so that it's more prepared than this year. It's hard to imagine, by key indicators, how to be better going into the playoffs than we were this year and then in that sense, it's hard to put your finger on why we came up short."
Red Bulls Sportiung Director Ali Curtis said on Thursday of what it will take to finish the job, "What we've done over the last couple of days, we'll continue to do it. You guys are aware of all the different mechanisms in the offseason, added layer of complexity with the Expansion Draft on the 13th of December. We'll perform an autopsy on what worked and what didn't, and we'll look at the roster and we'll make changes. There'll be changes."
Marsch said of whether the season was a successful one, "Yes, the season was a success. I think when you go through and look at, there's a number of accolades and accomplishments. First, getting through the Champions League for the first time was big, going 20 games unbeaten, being one of the top attacking teams and top entertaining teams for our fans, being great at home, setting the record for home wins, winning the East again, and then when you think about the seasons that guys like Brad (Wright-Phillips, Sacha (Kljestan), and (goalkeeper) Luis (Robles) had and the goals that Brad's been able to set, the record that Luis has been able to set in terms of consecutive games.
"For me I would at the end of all of that, I think that's all a result of a foundation of a certain kind of environment that's been created here, that I think has set the tone for what this organization has become. For me, obviously the results always speak the loudest and we really wanted to win the cup this year because we felt that was the true way to honor the success and accomplishments of what's been done and the work that's been done on the inside, but still I think there's enough results in our favor to say that what's been created, what's been built, the identity of this club, of this team, the foundation of what a real club should be about, having a true vision, I think we're unique in that way. I think our fans have gravitated towards that and trust it and believe in it. I think the disappointment for not getting the cup is widespread throughout this community but it's important to also really take a moment to appreciate everything that's been achieved."
Curtis said, "I'll just piggyback on Jesse, I mean there's a lot to be proud of in terms of what's happened this year, when you look at some of our guys we brought in from our academy, you look at what's been happening at the USL, and look at what we were able to accomplish with the first team, there's a lot to be proud of. At the end of the day, I think we're all disappointed we weren't able to deliver an MLS cup to the fans and to the community, but we'll be right back at it in terms of this team. We have a good team, we're going to be better. We've got to go into the offseason and figure this thing out so at the end of the day we can deliver an MLS cup to this club."
Their USL team, Red Bulls II, won the league championship, and some of those players, like Derrick Etienne Jr, Brandon Allen, and Aaron Long should be on the big club next season.
Marsch said of who in his mind is threatening the MLS roster right now, "Well as a starting point, that's going to be a big challenge but an exciting challenge for us to retool this team. We know that we have a really good feeder system right now, a really good USL team, and some really talented young players who are chomping at the bit to prove themselves on a bigger stage. I mean, when you go through this season, if you were to just talk about Brandon Allen, I think was one of the best attacking players in the USL, so having him back and now having him challenge himself with the first team to gain more minutes and to prove himself at a higher level, but we think that Brandon's done really well this year.
"We think Derrick had a great year, and built upon his USL performances from two years ago until now and has shown he's in many ways ready to push to see if he can push to get first team minutes. Aaron Long, being defender of the year, the best defender in that league and in many games the best player that I saw in that league. I think he's going to now continue to push to establish himself with the first group. Ryan Meara had an incredible season, I think he was the best goalie in that league even though he wasn't given that award, I think he proved to be the best goalie in that league and helped win a championship there. Tyler Adams, I think has shown that for as young as he is, that he's ready for challenges and big responsibilities.
"Sean Davis is already starting to establish himself, and then there's guys on the USL team. I'm just trying to think, did I forget anyone? I think Florian Valot and Vincent Bezecourt had great seasons, right, and they've shown that they can handle, that they're very good attacking players in that league. They're smart, they're creative, they fit the way we play. Stefano Bonomo still, I thought even though he was injured a lot this year, I think he has certain qualities that fit what we do. Justin Bilyeu when he played at left back showed some real special qualities. So that's sort of a laundry list for you, but I think the reason why I mention so many names is because we think very highly of a lot of the players down there.
"Now when we're looking to retool this thing and now push it for next year, there's obviously a lot of very established players on our team that we think are very high quality, but the challenge will be what is the balance for next year and how do we keep hunger and drive and youth and continue to invest in everything that we've done here, from not just a first team perspective. Is that good? That was a lot."
Curtis said, "It's a special group, USL is a very special group and John Wolyniec did a great job with that team. He's got some talented players, they play a nice style of soccer to what we want to play, so it's a good group and it's good for the MLS team."