A strong conclusion to his first season in Major League Soccer had seen Robinho Lazaró lead his New York Red Bulls into the playoffs, after a truly bizarre run to the North American Champions League Final! But season two would be purely focused on MLS as there was no continental football to get sidelined with.
He now faced an interesting off-season in which he would have to again tackle the drafts and had a mass of players leaving the club. Those included midfielders Emerson Hyndman and Cristian Cásseres, who both moved to Strasbourg on frees, and ineffective striker Ricardinho, who joined Phoenix for £325,000.
Some replacement Brazilian attacking flair arrived in Lucas Lourenco, for £200,000 from Santos, along with exciting French right-back Javier Arconada for £95,000 from Real Sociedad. Lazaró also brought Nico Bartelt, who’s touted as the next Oliver Bierhoff, back to the club on loan from Bayern for another season.
The squad was also bolstered by an exciting youth intake at the end of last season, which saw 16-year-old midfielder Shawn Henworth, goalkeeper Shaun Willcock and defender Marshall Pardo thrown straight into the first team.
NYRB entered the 2027 Superdraft armed with the sixth pick, with which they signed number one target Kane Wilson, who’s scored 123 goals in 191 games in the lower reaches of US soccer. Joining him were centre-back Jacob Sachdev, winger Cameron Dempsey and midfielder Liu Kang. And that earned them an A+ rating from the Harrison Soccer Chronicle! They then picked up midfielder Ian Bradford through the waivers after he was excluded from LA Galaxy’s squad.
With the drafts done and dusted, Lazaró pulled off possibly the biggest coup of his managerial so far and certainly the most expensive. He brought in former FM wonderkid Lázaro from Flamengo for £1 million. Lazaró signs Lázaro, not confusing at all!
2027 MLS season kicks off
Bizarrely, the media have predicted NYRB to finish 25th out of 28 teams this season at 350/1 to win MLS, so they clearly weren’t fans of Lazaró’s summer activity. But then, they also had last year’s dominant champions NYCFC to finish 11th and LAFC, who finished 12th in the Western Conference, as 1/5 favourites, so the American soccer media clearly can’t be trusted.
Stupidly, NYRB’s season began with three successive away games. They started in snowy Montréal and, predictably, lost 2-0 to a penalty and a header. But they responded well to win 2-1 in Austin then draw 2-2 in Chicago as Lourenco brilliantly assisted both goals before the hosts scored in the sixth of five minutes of injury-time.
Their first home game saw Atlanta United come to town. Lázaro had been having a stinker and was about to be subbed, but Lazaró berated him from the sidelines and the Brazilian suddenly popped up with two goals to win it 2-1!
Wilson came off the bench to get his first goals for the club and earn a 2-2 draw at home to Columbus before another wasteful 1-1 draw against Minnesota. A much better point arrived as Lazaró dropped underperforming goalkeeper Carlos Olses and handed a debut to 17-year-old Willcock. And the youngster kept a debut clean sheet at local rivals Philadelphia Union, in which Henworth also started and became the youngest player in club history aged 16 years 180 days.
The 16-year-old then further inked his name into Red Bulls folklore as he came off the bench to lay on what looked like the winner for striker Patryk Klimala then scored himself to beat fierce rivals NYCFC 3-1.
Another inspired performance saw Bartelt and Lázaro goals down third-placed Toronto 2-0 away despite only having eight shots to their 20. NYRB then faced DC United twice in a week and a Lázaro double nicked the home game 2-1 before Danilo Gómez and Bartelt goals won the away game 2-0. NYRB were suddenly flying on a club-record streak of 10 games without defeat since the opening day.
Lazaró reached his 200th game in management at home to rivals Philadelphia, where nothing happened until the last 10 minutes. And the game swung, ridiculously, on a quintuple substitution – yep, five subs, at the same time, after 80 minutes! But it worked as three subs combined with McKinze Gaines laying on an 88th-minute opener for Klimala, who created a second for last season’s Superdraft signing Andrés Padilla in the 94th-minute.
Strong form falls apart
A brilliant comeback nicked a 2-2 draw at home to Montréal but the run ended at NYCFC, where a disgraceful red card decision against Padilla and a ream of questionable refereeing decisions handed the hosts three points on a plate. And Lazaró went on the rampage about the poor standard of officiating.
The form inevitably, considering they bizarrely had four away games in a row, dropped off as they drew at Dallas, lost 2-1 at Orlando and drew at Colorado. However, despite going five without a win having previously won five in a row, they were still very much in the playoff mix.
At the halfway mark of the 2027 season, NYRB sat sixth in the Eastern Conference with 28 points from 17 games – which was much better off than they were this time last year. Furthermore, 10 of their 17 games had been away and they were unbeaten at home, which offered more promise for the second half of the season.
Lazaró had been impressed with the form of new signing Lázaro, but was looking for much more from the likes of Klimala, Bartelt and the severely underperforming Lourenco if Red Bulls were to turn around their form.
Join us next time to discover if they can maintain their push for the playoffs in the second half of the season!