Red Bull, Red Bulls, MLS, soccer, New York Red Bulls

Red Bull Reunions a Sideshow to Saturday's Home Opener

New York hosts Nashville in its home opener on Saturday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison New Jersey. They come off a heartbreaking 1-0 loss on the road against Orlando City, where they dominated the game only to be defeated on a handball turned penalty.

we were very disappointed after this game. It was not clinical enough, it was not with the desire that we want. It was, with the boys, a confrontation and they realize that we have to be sharper. This is the big mission on Saturday that we use our chances and the chances [will come] on Saturday, but we have to use it. In this direction, we have to do to execute this on a final way of success and I think this is my big expectation on Saturday against Nashville - that we are much cleaner in this moment and with much more determination.

Head coach Gerard Struber told reporters that Lewis Morgan will be unavailable on Saturday while Dante Vanzeir “has made great strides in training.” This is exciting news for the fans who will fill the stands at the South Ward but a start from the Belgian tomorrow is unlikely. Instead, Coach Struber hinted that Elias Manoel and Tom Barlow will reprise their roles as his team’s striker partnership.

A familiar face who they will face this weekend will be former captain, Sean Davis. The New Jersey native represented Red Bull from 2015-2021 and led the club in minutes-played two years ago. The central midfielder started Nashville’s first game of 2023 against New York City Football Club (NYCFC), playing 90 minutes, which is what he will probably do this weekend at the arena where he grew as a professional.


Talk about reunions! The southern club must have a love for ex-Red Bulls because Dax McCarty should play on Saturday, but this time, as a visiting player. McCarty was Red Bull captain from 2015-18, where he led New York to two Supporter's Shield titles.

In terms of athletes who come from the Garden State, they all play for the Red Bulls. Defender John Tolkin and midfielder Daniel Edelman should both be in the starting lineup.

The Nashville defensive midfielders are far from the main weapons that the Red Bulls will be watching out for. Nashville has the reigning MLS Most Valuable Player in striker, Hany Muktar, who came on as a sub last game and it’s not clear whether he will start or not. In addition, center back Walker Zimmerman, who starts for the United States national team has already opened his account for 2023 and will be a player with size and soccer IQ who they need to mark on set pieces.

That is not the only attacking player whom Red Bull should mark closely. Nashville's Jacob Shafellburg scored a goal which was assisted by Mukhtar last week and he is also on their minds heading into the home opener. All in all, this first home game of the season is shaping up to be a very close one indeed. Now let's pivot to the Red Bulls roster.

A Different Feel in 2023

This offseason, longtime defender Aaron Long left Red Bull Arena, the only MLS team he's ever known to sign with Los Angeles FC. There was a lot of good even if being knocked out in the first round despite leading the game left a bitter taste in our mouths as Long left the building. As the old saying goes, "one nail drives out another" and with the star of the Red Bull backline gone, the players who stood in his shadow will step into the limelight.

Will the real Sean Nealis please stand up? Just days before their first game of the season, the Red Bulls named Nealis as captain. The Long Islander has worked at his craft over the last three seasons, debuting in the COVID-shortened year of 2020 and has improved his game since then. Last season, he made 33 starts, which means he missed one game during the entire season. Last week, it was his right arm that blocked a shot that was called a handball and led to the penalty that defeated his team. Now, the onus is on him to step up and show his quality against a Nashville team led by the reigning golden boot striker, Hany Mukhtar.

Unfortunately, there is no comment to see from the Red Bulls captain but, interestingly enough, Cameron Harper started against Orlando City at right back and he offered some thoughts on how he can help the Red Bulls tomorrow night.

 it's fun it is to be able to [play] offensively. You know, you have to do the defensive stuff if you want to play wing-back, and that's something I really had to work on and just stay mentally sharp and in moments where you can get picked off.  Last year I was lucky enough to play there and I'm ready to play where the gaffer [Coach] puts me.

Harper expresses a naivete but also a humble attitude and a willingness to give up personal accolades for the good of the team. This was a player who transferred from a club in Celtic FC that has long been successful playing in the Champions League. Just seven years ago, Celtic were going toe-to-toe with Manchester City so that's where Harper developed, training alongside stars like Moussa Dembele and Tim Weah.

This is a new, fresh start for many Red Bulls players like Andres Reyes who has seen his role increase since joining in 2021 to Tom Barlow who earned the start at striker last week. Barlow scored twice in preseason and played all 90 minutes in game number one, which shows he is fit and ready to go. Now, it's time for the Red Bulls to put in a complete 90-minute effort on Saturday as Coach Struber says they need to in order to take three points from Eastern Conference opponent, Nashville.

on Saturday, we want to bring a big power in this game. A good spirit, a good energy, and every single player should leave everything on the field. I think this is the basement for success and this is [what I expect]... We need patience in this game. To handle moments, maybe they are not too easy in a game. That we are caught again and again against them with a good possession game and also with a good transition game. And this means in the end, a good performance and a great result to give us confidence.

Anthony Paradiso
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