New York had a disappointing season last year, we can all agree on that one. They also had quite a few breakdowns (most were quite ugly), but they did show some great play from time to time and could be exciting and enjoyable to watch. They certainly should be in the MLS elite.
Here's my five changes to help New York.
Marquez instigating against LA.
Marquez has never really played well for New York. He came into New York with a lot of hype and never really lived up. He was supposed to come in and solidify New York's backline and help link the defense and midfield. He never did that. He just can't seem to link up with anyone else on the team and a defensive partnership with Tim Ream never worked out.
Marquez plays with a lot of passion, but what he did in the games against the LA Galaxy crossed the line. Their was no need for him to act out and throw the ball at Donovan. He disgraced the Red Bulls and himself, as Mexico's captain, the spotlight was put on him.
He made comments about his teammates in New York not being good enough for him. He was booed when he touched the ball after that and became infamous with fans. If the team is not good enough for you Rafa, goodbye.
Stephen Keel coming in and partnering with Tim Ream was the best defensive change New York made all year. Keel and Ream's great play late helped the Red Bulls sneak into the post season.
Keel played his first few games when the Red Bulls were hurt by injuries or had players on national duty and he has never looked back. He played well with Ream and with Mendes and showed early he gave his all every single minute he played. He replaced Marquez in the back and out played him. New York should keep Keel around.
Tim Ream had a great season as well. He made a few mistakes but overall he was normally steady and calm. He will become a mainstay on the United States National team and should play in the MLS. He has expressed some interest in playing in Europe and European teams have expressed interest in him. New York should do everything possible to keep him in Harrison.
The Red Bulls had a lot of trouble with goalies last season. Whether it was using whoever they could find, or bringing in a big name veteran it really never worked out.
Bouna Coundoul played shaky all season. He was benched a couple of times and could not seem to find a groove and stick with it. He was unpredictable at best and only won 3 of his 11 starts, but his numbers are still good enough to get him 7th in the league.
Frank Rost was hardly better than any of the other keepers. He won 4 of his 11 starts and fitness could start to be an issue. He isn't extactly the franchise keep I think New York needs. The positive with him is he helped the defense come together, but quite late.
Chris Konopka played well during his surprise start and so did Alex Horwath. Greg Sutton was loaned to Montreal, but they released him.
Rodgers came from low in the English divisions and exploded into the MLS, scoring twice and tallying and assist in a game against San Jose, one of his first appearances. He scored 9 goals in his first MLS season, though he only made 23 appearances. He also had 3 assists and he helped the Red Bulls be a threat all night. From the first minute until stoppage time he would give it his all and never stop running.
No one really knew what kind of player we were getting but what he did for the team was play with the fire and passion and sometimes anger that the fans loved. He was just what the team needed and still needs. New York needs to find a way to keep him around long-term.
Tainio had a great season. He filed the void in the midfield that hurt New York last season and he really helped provide that vital link in the midfield. He would play a defense first game, but never ruled out looking for a long ball if the opponents seemed unprepared. He played to win every night and he played hard.
He is the type of player willing to take a foul or a card to protect a lead and one of the first to come to defend a fellow player. He was just what the Red Bulls needed and played over my expectations. He was the heart of the team this year and helped the back line through its struggles. A great veteran player, he should continue to be the glue for this team.