A day after the news of Lloyd Sam's trade to DC United, it was business as usual at the New York Red Bulls training facility. The players know the business they are in, and they know that business sometimes generates some unpleasant situations. Friends will remain friends, but they might not always be teammates. Still, Head Coach Jesse Marsch took his time to let people know of how he always enjoyed Sam's presence.
"On a personal level I loved my relationship with Lloyd, I think he's a great guy, he was a big personality here a big presence in the locker room. A member of our leadership council and in certain ways I enjoyed getting to know him and coaching him as well," said Marsch, "The decision to move him was a very difficult one, one that wasn't taken lightly and was thought about over time, but it's one move we think had to be made to improve the organization.
Moving him to DC was not our preference, but given the different scenarios, what DC offered was clear - in a way, the best package - and with that being said it was still difficult to pull the trigger and giving a player like that to your biggest rivals. With that being said, I wish Lloyd the best of luck and hope he will move forward in a positive way."
And then it was back to business for the Red Bulls. They have a tough task at hand this coming Sunday when they face the defending MLS Cup champion, Portland Timbers. The visitors have broken out of their opening season slump and are six games unbeaten in the league, settling into a pattern of winning at home and taking draws on the road.
Currently tied on points for the last playoff spot in the West but trailing Vancouver Whitecaps on tie-breakers, the Timbers have ample motivation for this weekend's game. Not only do they want to get above that red playoff line, but they will also remember last season's 2-0 loss to RBNY - that was built Luis Robles' points-stealing work in goal.
The Red Bulls are aware of the talent in Portland's squad. One such is Darlington Nagbe, who can cause plenty of issues for opponents with or without the ball. "He's so good at dribbling, he keeps the ball at 90% of the time which is obviously good for a midfielder." said Sacha Kljestan, "He creates a lot of space on the dribble, so we need to find a way to stop him. It's not about taking the ball away from him it's about dropping and closing down space on him."
And they know they need a plan for Fanendo Adi: "He's the best target man in the league, he's a big presence for them, if things break down he is the bailout for them when they go forward and needs him to hold the ball so they can go forward." said Marsch.
"That's a tactic they will use," the RBNY head coach continued, "You cant just play into Adi's hands and let him feel you or let him back into you, so our defenders need to do a good job not to remain stationary and when they start moving the ball around he is such a talented player to get into the box and score. It's a very good team and their core of attacking players can make you unbalanced."
The winless streak has put RBNY on its heels again, slowly slipping down the Eastern Conference table after successfully recovering from a bad start to the season - so the Red Bulls do not lack for their own motivation. The team's spotty form has cost it points and now a popular member of the squad has been lost to the quest for better performances on the field. In this match-up of reigning Shield and Cup holders, neither side can afford to rest on past achievements.