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Will New York Red Bulls fab four defenders return for 2019 encore?

Nov 25, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) heads the ball against New York Red Bulls defender Tim Parker (26) during the second half of the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

HARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls’ lockdown defense was a major reason they captured a third Supporters’ Shield in six years.

And for the most part, it was the same back four game after game — Kemar Lawrence, Tim Parker, Aaron Long and Michael Amir Murillo.

But will the Red Bulls’ fab four be back for an encore next season?

Lawrence received a new multi-year contract during the season and while Murillo is under contract for another year, the Panamanian is drawing interest from European sides. The Red Bulls turned down one offer during the summer transfer window.

And Parker, who was considered the missing piece of New York’s sturdy backline before arriving in a preseason trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps, is out of contract.

“When we made the trade for Tim, we knew he was an important piece. And I think he’s come in and helped us in an amazing way in terms of his leadership,” Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett said during the club’s end-of-season interviews Monday at Red Bull Arena. “I think with him and Aaron, probably the best center back combo [in the league]. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure we retain Tim here. We’ve got ongoing negotiations with him. We feel that hopefully we can get something taken care of.”

Parker was a noticeable omission among regular starters who participated in Monday’s interviews, likely because of the ongoing negotiations Hamlett referenced.

But he received a strong endorsement from Long, the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year.

“I would love it more than anything,” Long said of Parker returning next season. “I think he deserves every accolade that I’ve got this year. He’s an amazing player, he’s probably the best center back that I’ve played with back there. For this back line to grow, he’s a huge leader and a huge part of that.”

Murillo — who, along with center back Fidel Escobar, played for Panama at the World Cup in Russia — was named an MLS All-Star for the first time this year. Although his stock is on the rise and he said playing in Europe is “a dream of mine,” Murillo said his focus is squarely on the Red Bulls, though he hasn’t spoken to his agent yet about possible offers in the January window.

“In the near future, obviously, if that happens, I’ll know from my agent,” Murillo said through a translator. “But other than that right now, I’m just focused on being a Red Bull.”

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