Pat Martin, Soccer Editor
New York, NY (Sports Network) -
The overall theme of Red Bull New York's 2007 media day on March 21 was about moving forward.
Ironically, that is where one of Major League Soccer's original teams, known as the MetroStars from 1996 until last year, is currently weakest heading into the '07 season - forward.
The team has undergone a major overhaul in the past year, from the ownership to the coaches to the players, and now it is looking to "move forward."
"It has been a little over 12 months since Red Bull has started on this endeavor," Managing Director Marc de Grandpre said. "We have two simple objectives as an organization moving forward. Build a team that our fans are going to be extremely proud of moving forward, and obviously bring a championship to the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area."
But how is a team that brought in former U.S. National Team head coach Bruce Arena to be the Sporting Director/head coach, Dutch goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus to solidify the net, shows dramatic improvement in the midfield with the additions of American Claudio Reyna - who returns to the States after a 13-year European career - and Dutch midfielder Dave Van den Bergh - via trade with Kansas City - supposed to move forward when its most notable forward is 17-year-old Florida native, Jozy Altidore?
"I think there will one or two players coming (before the season opener on April 7) for obvious reasons," Reyna said. "To strengthen the team we probably need another forward to add to the squad. Overall it is a good group. We have two good goalies, we have a good midfield, the defense is doing really well. They are getting to know each other because it is the same group as last year."
Claudio Reyna is just one of the big names Red Bull New York have brought into their organization during the offseason.
"Obviously we are looking actively to improve ourselves (at forward) whether it is (the team's second) designated player (slot) or through a trade or what have you," Arena said. "We know we can improve our strength in that position."
The team actually has two designated player slots. One was used to bring in Reyna, the other was acquired from Club Deportivo Chivas USA for 2004 MLS MVP and last season's leading scorer, Amado Guevara, earlier in the offseason.
"We have been working on a second designated player for three or four months," Arena said. "It is not like a day goes by that we are not thinking of signing a player. We are going to sign the best player we can sign within our means. There is a long list and we have been through a lot of players and we have come close a lot of times. I can't be real definitive, however, we think there is a real possibility we will get one signed in the next month. If that is not the case we will wait until the next transfer window (later this summer)."
While getting a quality forward is imperative to Red Bull's mission of "moving forward," it has to be smart about it as well. It has to get the kind of player who isn't just a name, but will dramatically improve the quality of the team on the field in order to "build a team that our fans are going to be extremely proud of moving forward."
"The question is do they want to come to the States and if they want to come to MLS are they going to be able to produce something here for Red Bull," Van den Bergh said. "We can't use somebody that is going to come here and be happy that he is in New York City and can shop around and have some fun in the city. I think it's tough but there are obviously a lot of great players out there. If they are willing to come and put in the effort to come play for Red Bull and MLS then hey, there are going to be good things happening."
Arena, who obviously has more say in the matter, said the team isn't willing to break the bank to pay transfer fees to bring in a top European player, but everything will have to be considered.
"You can pay transfer fees but it is all a part of the process of evaluating," he said. "It is a big business decision. Transfer fees today for top players in the world are very, very high. In the history of this league we haven't paid that kind of money. I wouldn't recommend paying a high transfer fee for a player because its not good business at this point."
With the acquisition a Reyna, a proven playmaker at the highest level, getting the type of player who can finish the quality chances that inevitably will come from the midfield is the main concern of the team right now.
"We would consider anything, but at the end of the day you have to sit down and add up what it all would cost," Arena said. "This isn't all about if every move makes sense economically. Really the move has to make sense to move this team forward. I think we are going to end up with a good player."
The team better, because if it wants to "move forward" it badly needs an impact player "at forward."