New York Red Bulls
(JSN file photo by Sarah Middlesteadt)

Red Bulls 2024 season preview: Expectations are high in Harrison

The New York Red Bulls 2024 season opener is just days away, and a lot has changed since the club last played in November. From hiring a new head coach in Sandro Schwarz to signing a European star in Emil Forsberg, New York is serious about making a deep playoff run and giving their fans what they’ve wanted for so long. Here are some things to look out for and keep in mind for the upcoming season.

Bringing in Sandro Schwarz

Since his arrival in mid-December, newly appointed head coach Sandro Schwarz quickly adapted to Red Bulls soccer. The club finished the preseason with a 3-3-1 record with previews of what players such as Emil Forsberg, Dante Vanzeir, and Elias Manoel can do together on the pitch.

“Everyone knows how we want to play, the identity of Red Bull. With high intensity, first of all, and very aggressive against the ball,” Schwarz said. “But, in my opinion, it’s also then necessary that we find solutions with the ball and that we have controlled situations with the ball -- you need this in every phase of the game. What I have seen the last two weeks in our preseason are big steps in the development of the players: How we want to press, to find the right moments, to find the right timing for these situations, but then to have the right position in our ball position to come direct, and also in the counter-pressing situations.”

Despite the few months Schwarz has been with the Red Bulls, he has already impacted the club as players get used to his coaching system. Some of the tactics the newly appointed coach has implemented this preseason are more control of the ball and playing with more intensity.

“We've been building that culture back up again, you know when a new coach comes in they have little different ideas on how they want things run off the field and they've been implemented now and everybody's on board,” Defender John “JMi” Tolkin said. “It's a really serious group right now and everybody's ready to get running in Nashville again. I think they'll be waiting for a good team and I think they're gonna bring everything as well.”

The Swedish Star

New York’s newest designated player from Red Bull Leipzig has already shown what he brings to the table this preseason. Forsberg ended the preseason with a goal and four assists. It should be mentioned that the goal he scored was shot from well behind the midfield line and still found its way into the back of the net. The star from Sweden has proven himself a perfectly capable setup man and has already developed chemistry with the club’s other forwards.

“For me as a new guy to come in, to get to know the guys on a personal level as well as on the pitch. It gets easier,” Forsberg said. “We have Elias [Manoel], we have Dante [Vanzeir], we have Cory [Burke], we have some experience and then we have Roald [Mitchell], we have Julian [Hall], so I mean we have young guys - we have a good mix. They know how to score a goal. I've seen this in training, I've seen within games. We have to give them confidence. We have to push them because I'm sure during the season they will score a lot.”

Forsberg was also recently named team captain for the upcoming season with Sean Nealis, last year’s captain, and keeper Carlos Coronel serving as vice-captains. The 32-year-old is a veteran presence the club can benefit from and has proven his leadership ability.

“... Sandro and I had a discussion about it, we both agreed that was best for the team and I think going forward that’s what’s best,” Nealis said. “Emil is a great player and I think what he brings, he has a lot of expertise and all the talent so he’ll help us out a lot in that regard.”

International Experience

A few Red Bull Players were able to represent their countries during last season and this offseason. Andres Reyes got to play with the Colombian National Team, John Tolkin with the United States Men’s National Team, and Carlos Coronel with the Paraguayan National Team. Each player praised their time with their respective teams and how it helped them prepare for another season in the MLS. It can only benefit playing at a high level, such as internationally, and that’s what they prepared for.

“Anytime you can play the game for your nation, I think the biggest thing that comes out of it is just the stakes and the experience,” Tolkin said. “It’s just a different feeling playing for your nation and I’m able to take those experiences and bring them back here with me and I think that just helps thePhoto by Vinnie Lucia group overall."

Preparing for Nashville

The Red Bulls open up the season on Feb. 25 against Nashville SC at Geodis Park. New York ended the 2023 regular season in Nashville, where they won 1-0 on Decision Day to send themselves to the postseason for a record 14th consecutive year. The club had a lot of new signings in the offseason and is eager to prove themselves and show how effective they could be. The MLS world will wait with bated breath to see how New York does under its third new head coach in the last four years, but one thing remains the same...they will do things the Red Bull way.

“We’re very excited to play against Nashville, they’re always a tough test,” Nealis said. “Preseason was good. We made some mistakes during the games, but that’s a good thing to go over during those games and figure it out as the season progresses. So, it was a good start and we’re excited for the season to start.”

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