Harrison, NJ – Year-in and year-out, Red Bull New York harbors plans of Major League Soccer glory only to fall short of the ultimate goal: MLS Cup.
Of the clubs still remaining from the league's inaugural season in 1996, the Red Bulls (formerly the NY/NJ MetroStars) have arguably the most abysmal MLS Cup track record, making the final just once and losing out to the Columbus Crew in 2008.
The least decorated club in the league has never claimed an MLS Supporters' Shield or a U.S. Cup either, leaving its fans disappointed on an annual basis.
But with one of the strongest starting XI's in MLS, the Red Bulls could be poised to reverse their fortunes and make a run at the Cup in 2012.
New York boasts an attacking lineup that makes most MLS sides green with envy.
Led by one of the greatest strikers to ever grace the English Premier League in Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls also have dangerous complimentary pieces in Juan Agudelo, Dane Richards, and the offseason addition of Kenny Cooper.
Luke Rodgers proved to be a breakout star in 2011, but his return to the team is still uncertain as he looks to sort out his travel visas back in his native England.
The biggest questions hanging over the Red Bulls are in the back.
New York sold its center-back sensation Tim Ream to English side Bolton but quickly replaced the American with towering Swedish defender Markus Holgersson and MLS veteran Wilman Conde. The club's defensive success will hinge on how well Holgersson and Conde can play together.
The club's top three goalkeepers from last season are also no longer with the team as Frank Rost, Bouna Coundoul, and Greg Sutton have moved on. The Red Bulls will look to develop young talent at that position with the additions of Ryan Meara and Jeremy Vuolo.
One of the more interesting story lines to follow throughout the course of the 2012 season will be the behavior and contributions of Rafa Marquez.
Marquez is undeniably one of the greatest talents in the league, but he soiled the team's efforts down the stretch last season with his petulant behavior, which culminated in New York's home loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the quarterfinals of the playoffs when the Mexican was issued a red card for hurling the ball at Landon Donovan. Marquez did help his cause when he bashed his teammates late in the season for not "playing to his level."
If the New York is going to be a serious MLS Cup contender, it will need Marquez to be the consummate professional that the club thought it was acquiring.
2011 IN REVIEW: The Red Bulls made the 2011 season much tougher on themselves, finishing with 46 points to limp into the playoffs. Though New York only lost eight of its 34 regular season games, its league-high 16 draws saw the club drop points on a regular basis which ultimately jeopardized its postseason berth. The club clinched a spot in the playoffs with a win in its last regular season match of the year before defeating FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park in its postseason play-in game. The Red Bulls were ousted by the eventual champion, Los Angeles, over two legs in the quarterfinals.
ACQUISITIONS: Jose Angulo (F), Jhonny Artega (F), Brandon Barklage (M), Jonathan Borrajo (D), Wilman Conde (D), Kenny Cooper (F), Markus Holgersson (D), Ryan Meara (GK), Victor Palsson (M), Tyler Ruthven (D), Jeremy Vuolo (GK).
LOSSES: Chris Albright (D), Bouna Coundoul (GK), Sacir Hot (D), Matt Kassel (M), Tyler Lassiter (D), Carlos Mendes (D), Marcos Paullo (M), Tim Ream (D), John Rooney (M), Frank Rost (GK), Teddy Schneider (D).
OUTLOOK: New York will certainly need to hone its collective killer instinct in an effort to close games out and turn draws into wins if it wishes to find success. The Red Bulls do not have the deepest roster, but so long as they can stay healthy, there will be no more excuses for failing to make a run at the Supporters' Shield or MLS Cup.