The New York Red Bulls have signed six players thus far to bolster its lineup ahead of the 2017 CONCACAF Champions League and MLS regular season.
Veterans Aurelien Collin and Damien Perrinelle re-join the team alongside a plethora of young talent including former New York Red Bulls II players Rafael Diaz and Dan Metzger, and former Red Bulls U-23 and academy players, Arun Basuljevic and Evan Louro.
While Perrinelle and Collin’s names stand out for most Red Bulls fans as mainstays in the team’s back line, the other names may not be as familiar to some, despite having been associated with the club at numerous levels of the organization’s development pyramid.
“I’ve been at this club since I was 11-years-old,” Basuljevic said. “It’s a dream come true…to finally sign my first professional contract, it’s absolutely amazing.”
The Red Bulls now have eight Homegrown Players on the roster, with Basuljevic and Louro joining Alex Muyl, Derrick Etienne Jr., Brandon Allen, Sean Davis, Tyler Adams and Connor Lade on New York’s list. Basuljevic and Louro were also members of the Red Bulls RDS before taking the next step in the development pyramid and joining the academy.
New York’s emphasis on developing talent through its academy has led to an MLS record 18 Homegrown Players, the most of any club in the league since the rule was created in 2008.
“I’ve been here for a little bit…I was in the academy,” Louro said. “I know most of the first team guys, which helped with the transition.
“I’m trying to develop as much as I can, getting advice to make myself better. I just want to be the best player I can possibly be.”
Metzger, despite not being officially tagged as a Homegrown Player, is another product of the Red Bulls’ academy. Alongside Diaz, Metzger took the USL route to joining the first team, after playing two seasons for Red Bulls II.
“Red Bulls has a great USL program and it helped me develop the last two years,” Metzger said. “They’re great with developing players and moving on up to the first team. Glad it worked out for me.”
New York’s latest signings means the core of the team is getting younger. The current average age of the Red Bulls roster (excluding on-loan forward Anatole Abang) is 25.54, and could continue to shrink if the club signs any of their 2017 MLS SuperDraft picks. For perspective, compare this average age to the Red Bulls of five years ago, when the average age was 27.77 in 2012.
With the influx of young talent, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch noted the importance of educating his new young players on the Red Bulls’ signature style of play.
“It’s important for them to understand quickly how we do things…how we work here and what the environment is like,” Marsch said. “We try to have good energy, we try to set high standards for them, but we want them to enjoy themselves.”
Marsch also noted that both the new and returning players will have some learning to do as the technical staff aims to implement new tactical adjustments.
“We’re trying to build a bit tactically and with some of the concepts that we have from what we’ve built the last two years,” Marsch said. “I think there’s new steps to take forward.
“One of them is the specifics of when to press and how to press and when to counter-press and making sure our habits are good in that manner.”