As the MLS regular season winds down and the playoffs loom large, which new player for the New York Red Bulls has made the biggest difference?
After some significant offseason departures, the New York Red Bulls have had some key contributions from players in their first seasons with the club. But which has been the most significant?
Starting off with the player who statistically has had the biggest impact, Kaku might seem like the obvious choice. With Sacha Kljestan’s move to Orlando City in the offseason, the Red Bulls had an obvious void in the playmaking position.
Albeit in a much different manner than Kljestan, Kaku wasted no time getting acclimated with his teammates, most importantly Bradley Wright-Philips. His pinpoint accurate left-foot has been a headache for opposing defenses all season; the Paraguayan has racked up 14 assists, five of which have been for game-winning goals.
Take a look at the way this cross from Kaku lofts over a helpless Jalil Anibaba, leaving BWP for essentially a tap-in:
In addition to the play-making role, Kaku has been a key goalscorer for RBNY as well. Five goals might not jump off the page reading down the stat sheet. But the context of these goals means everything. Of those five goals on the season, how many have been game-winners? Trick question. All five.
He’s scored in some of the team’s biggest games this season, including an early goal in the team’s lone win against NYCFC this season. In addition to the goal, he also provided two assists, continuing to ignite the team’s attack.
When the pressure has been on, Kaku always seems to pop up in the right area and provide the goal that the team needs. Just take a look at this game-winner against D.C. United at home earlier this season to give the Red Bulls three points.
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Another left-footed newcomer in this discussion is Rzatkowski. The loanee from Red Ball Salzburg has been somewhat of a late-bloomer. If this article had been written a few months ago, he might not have been in this argument.
After starting out with an assist in each of his first two games, Rzatkowski slowed down. He made his presence known to Red Bulls fans with a two-assist performance against the 4-3 loss to Orlando earlier in the season, but then failed to find consistent form.
From April to May, Rzatkowski went through five consecutive games of being an unused sub. With the emergence of new Head Coach Chris Armas in July, Rzatkowski has since become a key part of the team’s summer surge. In Armas’ second game in charge against Sporting Kansas City, the German midfielder belted home two goals, including this cracker to win the game and give the Red Bulls three points:
Similar to Kaku, Rzatkowski is a left-footed playmaker who’s most effective when he’s given the freedom to pop up on both sides of the field. His left foot has been a key asset from set pieces for the team. Since the Jesse Marsch era began a few seasons ago, fans have seen how much the squad stresses the importance of freekicks. Without good service, set pieces are useless. Rzatkowski has been crucial to the Red Bulls’ success in this area this season.
Finally, it’s time to take a look at a player who’s stats don’t show how important he’s been for the team. After growing up on Long Island and playing his college ball at St. John’s University in Queens, Tim Parker made his way back to the East coast this season after being traded from Vancouver.
As a duo, Parker and his main centerback partner, Aaron Long, have quickly grown into one of the league’s strongest pairings. Mixed with two strong outside backs in Kemar Lawrence and Michael Amir Murillo, Luis Robles has himself a strong backline of protection.
The thing that’s so impressive about Parker is his recovery speed. If a through ball initially beats him, or if an attacker slips past one of his teammates, never assume that their path to the goal will be clear. His last-ditch tackling ability is uncanny and he’s willing to throw his body at any shot headed in the direction of Robles’ goal.
As strong as Parker has been in the back, he’s also shown that he poses a threat in and around the box when he makes his way up there. He provided the finishing touch to give the team a much-needed insurance goal in their recent game against Supporters’ Shield rivals Atlanta United and delivered a crafty backheel assist to Aaron Long the other night in San Jose in another victory.
All in all, it is Kaku who has had the most glaring impact on the team since joining. His presence filled a much needed void after Kljestan’s departure. With all of his match-winning goals and assists, it’s hard to imagine the New York Red Bulls in the place they are in right now with his dynamic playmaking abilities. Nevertheless, the input from all these newcomers has been substantial, to say the least.