(photo by Matt Kremkau)
New York Red Bulls resume the MLS regular season tonight against rivals NYCFC at Red Bull Arena and head coach Chris Armas is well aware of the kind of team he will be facing. Despite a bad start with only one win in five games in 2020, the Red Bulls coach knows the weapons they are up against.
"It's no secret they have dangerous attackers," said Armas. "Whether it's Castellanos, Heber, Medina, McKay-Stevens, Shradi if he's healthy, Mitrita, Moralez... There are DP's and there is quality. This is an interesting trait of their team."
Last season City finished in first place in the Eastern Conference while Red Bulls were forced into a play-in game under the new MLS format. This season, New York has a very different look without players like Bradley Wright-Phillips. However, they have forged ahead and are sitting with a 2-2-1 record after the MLS is Back tournament. Expectations are high for NYCFC to rebound but New York still has a hope that their way is still potent against their rivals.
"It means that they are really dangerous in transition. They have guys that can run and understand these big moments to go. If you're them, you're thinking about creating these, whether it is out of possession or even transition moments, that's what I think the game is they're going to want to play in."
While the Red Bulls did not progress beyond the group stage in the MLS is Back tournament, there were positive takeaways from the experience. The offense did move the ball well despite their lack of finishing. That speed and movement is something that could stifle an NYCFC team that has shown they are susceptible both on the break and on set pieces.
The pressure is currently placed on City who are in desperate need of a win and want to establish Red Bull Arena as their new home. The team will not be playing in Yankee Stadium this season as far as we know. A win over New York would not only boost their confidence but establish a new normal at RBA in 2020.
For Red Bulls it is a dose of reality. The team is only two points from second place and have done well considering the transition that is still occurring on the field and in the front office. Armas and the team are well aware of that and despite their disappointment in how events transpired in Orlando, they are looking to remain focused.
"We know what we're looking at in terms of we're a young team. We have to learn how to manage games. We have to learn to manage frustration levels. What we talk about with the team is that we're 2-2-1. We lose a tough game in game 3. We out-shoot the opposition 20 to 3 you lose 2-0. It's difficult to swallow on the day but what I see is the reality. The guys work their butts off every day. The team sticks together."