Red Bull Arena is starting to look like a UEFA five-star stadium. OK, not quite, but three more major European clubs are coming to visit Harrison, as today it was reported that the first annual New York Football Challenge has been set. English Premier League sides Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City will be joined by Portuguese giants Sporting CP in the inaugural tournament, which will last from July 22nd until July 25th. On the heels of the announcement of the Red Bulls-Juventus friendly in May, that now makes four top level European teams that will play in Red Bull Arena in just the stadium's first six months in existence.
Again, as with the Juventus match, this adds extra games and mileage to the Red Bulls, in games that don't mean anything. Originally, the Red Bulls had the week of July 18-25 off, in between matches at Columbus and Houston, two very tough tilts. Instead of having the week off, the Red Bulls will now play twice from Thursday to Sunday. Certainly with mid-season friendlies, the players and coaching staff won't lose sight of the real goal, the MLS season. Players who are hurt or banged up won't play, and many substitutions will be used. One friendly is all fine and good; you can't blame MLS and/or the Red Bulls for wanting to make money, and these matches will all sell out. But three extra matches in the middle of a season, on top of possible U.S. Open Cup matches, is a lot.
The choices for the Challenge were good ones from a money-making standpoint. Tottenham and Manchester City have recognizable names and stars who will attract fans of the English Premier League, whom are abundant in the area. The choice of Sporting makes tons of sense, as there is a very heavy Portuguese population in the Newark/Harrison area around Red Bull Arena. On matchdays, there will be a lot of Green and White on the streets and in the stands.
-The Red Bulls had some bad news today, as the club announced that forward Macoumba Kandji will undergo surgery on his metatarsal and will miss 8-12 weeks. Kandji injured himself in training on Tuesday, and his absence will make the signings of Brian Nielsen and Salou Ibrahim more important. Ibrahim hasn't quite impressed in his early Red Bulls career, and he will have his chance to lock down a starting spot at forward. Nielsen will automatically be the first choice at left midfield, without much competition (he most likely was already). Kandji's injury could open to door for rookie Conor Chinn, who has been looking for an opportunity to break into the fold with the first team. Chinn had a stellar preseason, and has continued finding the back of the net in early season "reserve matches" (friendlies). Ibrahim may get the quick hook if he doesn't produce and Chinn may just get his chance. This blogger would love to see young Juan Agudelo get a shot as well.