Major League Soccer fans can have their say in choosing what will be the third annual "MLSsoccer.com 24 Under 24" team, a list of the best players in the league currently under the age of 24-years old. Fans of the New York Red Bulls can vote for up to four different RBNY players to make that list, although I honestly don't think one could select all four if looking at the whole list of candidates with unbiased eyes. MLS rookies goalkeeper Ryan Meara and defender/midfielder Connor Lade are the two names most recognizable to 2012 RBNY team sheets. Midfielder Victor Palsson and forward Corey Hertzog are the other two eligible New York candidates.
2012 New York Red Bulls "MLS 24 under 24" candidates: Ryan Meara
Meara is a no-brainer for this list. Selected by the Red Bulls on 2012 MLS SuperDraft day back in January, Meara has been a revelation during the current campaign. He was picked as the team's first choice 'keeper before the start of the season, and he never relinquished that role until picking up a hip injury on July 8 when New York were away to New England Revolution. Meara was the unnamed 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year at that time, but he could find himself as the team's backup 'keeper once he returns to full fitness due to the stellar play of journeyman Bill Gaudette. Gaudette has been a savior while filling in for the rookie, but that doesn't take anything away from how well Meara performed during the first half of the season.
2012 New York Red Bulls "MLS 24 under 24" candidates: Connor Lade
The diminutive Lade was one of New York head coach Hans Backe's "super subs" during the late spring and summer when over half of the RBNY lineup was out due to injuries. Lade's tenacity, speed and chippy style of play provided a spark for the Red Bulls in numerous matches over the past several months, and captain Thierry Henry went out of his way to praise the rookie to reporters in July. Lade has had several noteworthy "rookie moments" during 2012, and there still remain questions about his being able to play in the New York back line against top-tier MLS opponents. Nevertheless, I'd pick Lade for any "MLS 24 under 24 list" right now.
2012 New York Red Bulls "MLS 24 under 24" candidates: Victor Palsson
The Icelandic midfielder doesn't get my vote. Palsson hasn't played in over a month, he has started just four times, and he hasn't lit the world on fire during any of his appearances. Truth be told, I'm not sure what Palsson's role with the Red Bulls will be following this coming December.
2012 New York Red Bulls "MLS 24 under 24" candidates: Corey Hertzog
Hertzog is an interesting case. Backe again favored several strikers over the Penn State soccer legend this past spring, and Hertzog was loaned to USL Pro side Wilmington Hammerheads at the end of May. Hertzog has enjoyed a very successful loan spell, scoring nine goals in 17 games with Wilmington. Only two players have scored more goals than has Hertzog during the USL Pro campaign, and both of those individuals have seven more league appearances than does Hertzog as of the posting of this piece.
Hertzog, just 22-years old, has never been able to break through into Backe's lineup outside of US Open Cup play and whenever multiple other attacking options have been unavailable due to injuries and/or international call-ups. With that said, I know that multiple MLS scouts are high on Hertzog, and believe that he could be a dependable goal-scorer in the top-flight US league. I hope Hertzog gets his chance in MLS and soon, even if it means his making an exit from the Red Bulls.