The New York Red Bulls' third closed-door scrimmage of their first warm-weather training camp of the 2015 preseason didn't go quite as well as the first two (a resounding win over USF; a modest victory over a distracted Toronto FC), but this is preseason. The wins count for as much as the losses: not much at all.
Against Jacksonville Armada, a new addition to NASL for the 2015 season, Jesse Marsch put out pretty much the half of the squad that hadn't played against TFC in the kickabout immediately preceding this one.
Not a terrible lineup: Kyle Reynish was NASL's top 'keeper as recently as 2013; Connor Lade had a good enough run for the New York Cosmos last season that he kept getting yanked back to RBNY until the green team petulantly cancelled his loan; Ibrahim Sekagya, of course, was a starter for the Red Bulls in 2014 and may yet be again.
The rest of the team was a mix of trialists and emerging prospects - including Leo Stolz, RBNY's top draft pick of 2015.
The Red Bulls' social media crew (ably complemented by Jacksonville's own support team) brought us 140-character highlights of a "game" that was split into two periods of 25 minutes followed by a 20-minute finale. It started badly...
...and got worse...
...and worse still.
The Armada's goal scorers in the opening 25 minutes - Jemal Johnson, Jaime Castrillon and Pascal Millien - are all experienced pros. If Marsch's objective with this scrimmage was to gauge the level of some of the fringe players in the current training squad - the answer was perhaps not what he had been hoping for.
Ruben Bover had a couple of bright moments in the first 25 minutes:
16' - Ruben Bover with a great leading pass to put Cajano in alone, but the Brazilian is caught just offside. #RBNY— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) February 5, 2015
19' - Bover's curling free kick is headed for the top left corner but the Armada keeper palms it out for a corner kick. #RBNY— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) February 5, 2015
And Stolz almost connected decisively with trialist Anatole Abang:
21' - Stolz picks up a loose ball just outside the area, crosses to the back post for Abang who heads JUST OVER. #RBNY— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) February 5, 2015
But 3-0 down after 25 minutes tells its own story.
Marsch subbed out Bover to have a look at "guest" Anthony Wallace (this Anthony Wallace - the ninth pick in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft?). And the teams were back at it.
Eric Stevenson cracked in a consolation goal from distance - in keeping with the promise of his highlight reel:
And that was about it. Santiago Castano got subbed in for Reynish in the 36th minute, and RBNY managed to avoid the thorough drubbing Jacksonville's early goals implied. Though there was one more goal in the game for the Armada:
Marsch won't be at all concerned about the result, just as he is unlikely to be celebrating the earlier preseason "wins".
What is perhaps most telling about this game and the one against TFC that preceded it is who was missing from the lineups. Peguy Luyindula and Lloyd Sam were rested for the day, so we'll have to wait until later this month to see how they fit into the coach's plans. Sal Zizzo also didn't get a run, though he is under contract and seems a pretty safe bet to for a significant role in the team this season.
Trialists Rafael Diaz, Colin Heffron and Tim Ward weren't seen either. The latter player it has been explained is working to a different time line from the rest of the squad (Ward has effectively been out of the game for the last couple of years).
Any absences may of course simply be down to ill-timed knocks or overexertion in the previous day's training. Still, as the first training camp of the preseason winds down, one starts to think about what cuts might be made. Diaz, Heffron, and draft pick Manolo Sanchez (also absent from the final closed-door scrimmages in Orlando) are by no means out of the picture - but it will be interesting to see when and if they next drift back into frame as Marsch starts to sharpen his focus on the season ahead.