After the New York Red Bulls' first game of the 2017 preseason, head coach Jesse Marsch made his priorities clear: this preseason is about the team's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal that starts on February 22, and that means it is about getting players minutes on the field. Or as he put it in a post-match interview widely circulated by RBNY:
"For us, we have to accelerate our process here because we have a very important game in about 26 days. So, you know, the emphasis was to come down here and play MLS competition immediately."
"More than anything, we're trying to crank up the minutes a little bit faster than we normally do. We put a lot of emphasis on game minutes. So, you know, we've even scaled back on training a little bit because nights like tonight are most valuable for us."
There it is: RBNY's preseason priority is game minutes.
To that end, the Red Bulls are apparently willing to take as many games as they can get. During the same interview, Marsch revealed the team had been approached by the University of Arizona men's soccer team - a club side - and had agreed to play on January 31, the same day RBNY is due to play Real Salt Lake.
Come support @azmenssoccer as we take on MLS side @NewYorkRedBulls Tuesday. Once in a lifetime opportunity for the boys. #BearDown pic.twitter.com/5OOcoCVLB8— Eric Rhodes (@RhodesAz) January 29, 2017
The plan is to split the squad: those who don't get much or any time against RSL will play U of A; the standard of opponent will be a little different, but the whole preseason roster will at least experience the same routine of training building up to a game day.
The Red Bulls will then close out the opening phase of their preseason with a final game against New England Revolution on February 3.
The squad will return to New Jersey on February 4. The second phase of RBNY's preseason has also (finally) been announced by the club, and it too includes one more game than previously expected. The Red Bulls will play Sacramento Republic in Sacramento on February 10 before returning to Arizona for their Desert Diamond Cup schedule.
By that time, there might have been an adjustment to preseason priorities, but for now the focus is clear: RBNY wants its players to get minutes on the field in the name of accelerating the squad's progress toward match-readiness by February 22.