It may not be the answer that the fans who serenaded Red Bull Arena with “Armas Must Go” and “Fire Armas” chants earlier in the season wanted to hear, but it is the one delivered by Hamlett at Wednesday morning’s season ending press conference/media availability at the Red Bulls home.
It wasn’t a bad year, just an off year
It is easy to imagine those same hardliners reacting with something less than glee as well to Armas’s refusal to label the just concluded campaign as a “bad” season. Instead Armas noted that “half of the teams in the league don’t make the playoffs, they don’t make the cut, they’re not in it to win it. They have no chance, they’re not on the road scoring three goals. Those guys,” Armas contends, “have a bad year.”
“We didn’t have a bad year, we had an off year.”
It is a distinction not likely to thrill Red Bulls faithful, coming as it does just one season after the Red Bulls won the Supporters Shield under Armas.
The coach explained. “We didn’t achieve the goal,” Armas said before he citing several stats that “supported us sticking to who we are.” So why didn’t those favorable analytics lead to better results?
Armas conceded that, “maybe we just didn’t execute enough, all of us. Myself, the staff, the players. We put ourselves in games to win, had a lot of leads but we just didn’t execute enough.”
Perhaps it is just semantics but many a Red Bull fan will be scratching his or her head that Armas’s wouldn’t give in. “I would say it wasn’t a bad year,” the coach said. “Bad is harsh, we’re not happy with it, we’re not happy with mediocrity 14 and 14 (plus 6 ties).”
Conor Lade retiring and other changes
The day began with the surprise news that career long Red Bull Conor Lade was retiring. Both Hamlett and Armas opened their remarks by praising the 29 year-old defender, as did his teammates in subsequent remarks but perhaps Armas summed up the diminutive, hard working defender best of all when he said, “he set the example of what a Red Bulls player is.”
Every off-season in every sport brings change and the Red Bulls will surely be a different team next season. Team icon Bradley Wright-Phillips struggled through an injury plagued year this season and so the 34 year-old striker was asked – would he be back?
“I don’t know who it is that thinks I’m done,” BWP stated “but it isn’t me. I had an injury.”
Captain and goalkeeper Luis Robles played well despite surrendering four goals to Philadelphia in Sunday’s season ending defeat. However, the 35 year-old has been around long enough to know that nothing is guaranteed in professional sports.
“I understand that it could go either way,” Robles began when asked about his future with the Red Bulls. “I’m hoping that this organization sees that I still have a lot to contribute, not only as a player but as a person, and it’s my dream to finish out my days here as a player with the New York Red Bulls.”
The Red Bulls season was disrupted at least in part by rumors that some key players did not share Robles’ dream and were looking to greener pastures.
Midfielder Kaku was linked with Mexico’s Club America, and defenders Aaron Long and Kemar Lawrence also appeared to be headed for the door at various points in the year.
Is Aaron Long off to Europe?
U.S international Aaron Long described himself as “still grieving a little bit” when High Press Soccer inquired if the center-back was still thinking of a European move, adding that he had, “no real comment on that.”
So, will Long be back in Harrison next year? “Playing in the Premier League, of course, is a dream,” Long admitted, “and I think it is a dream for a lot of players. So, we will see.”
Jamaican international fullback Lawrence told High Press Soccer that exit rumors “shouldn’t be something that distracts us.” Echoing Long, Lawrence said, “it’s always a dream for any player to play in the best leagues in the world.”
The Reggae Boyz star had an interesting take on those rumors, saying “you always have to bring your best, so those rumors don’t only stay rumors, that they become reality. And the only way that it becomes reality is if you perform.”
“If you perform,” Lawrence notes sagely, “it wouldn’t be rumors, people would actually go out there and spend their money.”