After Toronto FC and Houston, the New York Red Bulls will become the third
MLS team to open their competitive season when they play Caribbean champion Atletico Pantoja Wednesday in the Concacaf Champions League.
Head coach Chris Armas admitted the Red Bulls know little about their Dominican opponent, whose 2018 league season ended in October and whose 2019 campaign won't begin until the end of March, but he has been concentrating on getting his team ready.
In a conference call from the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, Armas, who is in his first full season as Red Bulls head coach, said the goal was get his players close to match fitness.
"We've gotten a lot of guys good minutes," he said, "so as a team we’ve taken steps forward."
The Red Bulls will be at close to full strength for the game. Marc Rzatkowski will likely slot in for Tyler Adams, who has moved to RB Leipzig, and Connor Lade should start at left back in place of Kemar Lawrence, who will start the game on the bench after recovering from an knee injury suffered late in 2018.
Danish teen Mathias Jorgensen, the team's big offseason signing, won't be ready until his visa process is completed.
The other big offseason moves came with the signings of both of the Red Bull central defenders, 2018 MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long and Tim Parker, to lucrative long-term contracts.
“They have shown they can work together," said Armas, "and what that means for the team. So to lock those two guys up, it’s a big step and a big statement for our club.
NY Red Bulls:
Probable starting XI -- Robles; Murillo, Long, Parker, Lade; Rzatkowski, Davis; Royer, Kaku, Muyl; Wright-Phillips.
2019 Roster (29 players):
Goalkeepers (3): Evan Louro, Ryan Meara, Luis Robles.
Defenders (8): Kyle Duncan, Connor Lade, Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long, Michael Amir Murillo, Sean Nealis (Hofstra Univ.), Tim Parker, Amro Tarek (Orlando City).
Midfielders (14): Vincent Bezecourt, Cristian Casseres, Sean Davis, Marcus Epps (Philadelphia), Derrick Etienne, *Omir Fernandez (Wake Forest Univ.), Andreas Ivan, Kaku, *Jean-Christophe Koffi (Univ, of Virginia), Ben Mines, Alex Muyl, Danny Royer, Marc Rzatkowski, Florian Valot.
Forwards (4): Anatole Abang, Mathias Jorgensen (OB/DEN), Brian White, Bradley Wright-Phillips.
*2019 Homegrown signing.
Photo: New York Red Bulls Communications