Red Bulls set out on unfinished business in Concacaf Champions League

The New York Red Bulls, the only returning American team from the 2018 Concacaf Champions League, opened training camp a week early in East Hanover, New Jersey, to begin preparations for the 2019 competition that starts in February against Atletico Pantoja of the Dominican Republic.

The Red Bulls reached the semifinals in 2018, falling to eventual champion Guadalajara, 1-0, on aggregate. Chris Armas, who begins his first full season as head coach, says there are a lot of benefits to the early start.

"It's another opportunity in a major tournament," he said on Wednesday. "No MLS team has lifted the trophy. There is a lot to play for, a lot to be excited about. It gives us a great motivation, even more than preseason to get ready to play. It gives us that extra incentive to be fit, sharp. They have been working together on their own and look ready to go."

Armas says the Red Bulls will make the competition a priority.

"If you want to call it unfinished business -- yeah, it's a trophy out there and we want to make a good push," he said. "We don't take any competitions lightly or for granted, so we will put our resources together and manage our roster the right way and go for Champions League."

The Red Bulls will be without Tyler Adams, their young midfield star who joined RB Leipzig. Armas said the Red Bulls are working on getting help in midfield on the international market.

“We have a few things that are close," he said. "That will make us feel really good about where we’re heading there. We've had to manage playing games last year without Tyler. It’s never that you put someone in who gives you the same thing because everybody is different and Tyler is a special player that way. Like we've seen around here, Sean Davis has always stepped up and met the demands."

The Red Bulls, winners of three Supporters' Shield in the last six years, have stayed at the top of the league because of their ability to bring young players along, and they are high on 21-year-old Jean-Christophe Koffi, who played three years at Virginia but sat out the 2018 season, and 18-year-old Cristian Casseres, who is with Venezuela at the South American U-20 Championship.

“Koffi, who in the middle of the field, is a presence," said Armas of the 5-foot-9 Ivorian whose Homegrown rights were acquired from D.C. United. "He gives us something different in there. We’re going to bring him along the right way. We feel really good about that part of the field.”

NY Red Bulls.
2019 Roster (24 players):
Goalkeepers (3): Evan Louro, Ryan Meara, Luis Robles.
Defenders (7): Kyle Duncan, Connor Lade, Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long, Michael Amir Murillo, Tim Parker, Amro Tarek (Orlando City).
Midfielders (11): Vincent Bezecourt, Cristian Casseres, Sean Davis, Derrick Etienne, Andreas Ivan, Kaku, *Jean-Christophe Koffi (Univ, of Virginia), Ben Mines, Alex Muyl, Florian Valot, Danny Royer.
Forwards (3): Anatole Abang, Brian White, Bradley Wright-Phillips.
*2019 Homegrown signing.
Waiver Draft: FW Marcus Epps (Philadelphia).

2019 Preseason:
Jan. 21-Feb. 2 in Bradenton, Florida:
Jan. 26. IF Elfsborg, IMG Academy
Jan. 30. Philadelphia Union, Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex (Clearwater)
Feb. 2. Orlando City, IMG Academy
Feb. 9-23 in Tucson, Arizona:
Feb. 10. Phoenix Rising, Location TBD
Feb. 14. Real Salt Lake, Kino North Stadium
Feb. 16. Portland Timbers, Kino North Stadium
Feb. 20. Hartford Athletic, Kino North Stadium
Feb. 23. FC Dallas, Kino North Stadium
Note: A split-squad will remain in Tucson while the first team plays in the CCL.

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