The New York Red Bulls play Club America in a mid-season friendly likely to be ignored by most RBNY fans. The match comes at an awkward time for the Red Bulls, who have played six competitive games since June 15 and could use a rest. To that end, Jesse Marsch has said he won't be playing his core starters, electing instead to let them rest and focus on the weekend's upcoming game against Portland Timbers.
This does make this friendly an interesting chance for some of the MLS squad's less-used players to assert their claim for more minutes. And it will be no surprise to see a few members of the club's USL team - NYRB II - put in an appearance against a higher class of opponent than they typically see week-to-week in the third tier of US soccer.
The opponent, Club America, has a claim to being the biggest club in CONCACAF: it has won the most Mexican top-flight titles (12), five Copa MX trophies (also a record), and seven regional club titles (a record again) - the most recent of which were back-to-back CCL trophies. That and string of other cups gives Las Aguilas much to celebrate as they enter their centenary year (the club was founded in October 1916).
Currently, America is in pre-season. This match against RBNY is the third of four friendlies in the US that comprise Tour Aguila - part of a renewed effort to bring America to America.
The preceding games have Las Aguilas beat Pachuca, 2-0, in Denver, and tie Leon, 1-1, in Chicago. After today's match, the team will head to San Antonio for to play Santos Laguna on July 9. Four games in 10 days is a crowded schedule, made more challenging by the decision to roam all over the USA to play them - but, again, these are pre-season games. America is here to get some fitness, integrate new signings into the squad, and show itself off to its fans north of the border.
As might be expected, head coach Ignacio Ambriz has shuffled his lineups for the games played to date. 'Keepers Moises Munoz and Hugo Gonzalez have each had a start, the back line has been shuffled around - but the attacking trio of Rubens Sambueza, Darwin Quintero and Silvio Romero have started both matches.
Romero is a new signing, arriving from Chiapas after scoring 18 goals in 36 league appearances last season. The club's other significant off-season additions - Ecuador international (he missed the cut for his country's Copa America Centenario squad) Renato Ibarra, and 23-year-old Paraguayan defender Bruno Valdez - have also featured so far on tour.
This game should be a perfect opportunity for Ambriz to give more senior players a night off from the crowded Tour Aguila schedule, since RBNY has clearly stated it will be fielding a second string. But give the club's promotional priorities, one suspects fans might expect to see big names like club captain Sambueza, and forward Darwin Quintero.
Out-of-favor American international, Ventura Alvarado, made an appearance in the last match - against Leon. It has been suggested MLS will be the next stop for the defender, so this game may provide opportunity to scout a player who will soon be joining RBNY's league.
Despite the fact it seems not all of the squad's top names are on this tour, it will be a surprise if America does not field international-class players at almost every position, at least for the first half. The Red Bulls' reserves will get a worthwhile test, Las Aguilas' pre-season fitness levels notwithstanding.