The New York Red Bulls already knew that they would likely be without prized defenders and Panama national team starters Michael Amir Murillo and Fidel Escobar for several weeks this coming year due to the FIFA World Cup. But as of today’s draw, we now know exactly when the Red Bulls’ defender duo will take the field in Russia.
On Friday the 2018 FIFA World Cup draw was held, and Panama was drawn into Group G alongside UEFA powerhouses Belgium (Ranked 5) and England (12), as well as Tunisia (28) of CAF. Panama (49) is scheduled to play its Group Stage games on June 18 (vs Belgium), 23 (vs England) and 28 (vs Tunisia).
There is, of course, a Red Bulls connection to Belgium too with club legend Thierry Henry serving as an assistant manager to Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.
The 2018 World Cup runs from June 14 through July 15, during which MLS will still play some games. In 2014, the Red Bulls played three league games and a US Open Cup game while the tournament occurred.
Murillo and Escobar were both defensive starters for Los Canaleros during the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and have been featured consistently for the team during World Cup Qualifying. Panama qualified for the World Cup for the first time ever thanks to a remarkable comeback win against Costa Rica this past October.
Additionally, Australia - captained by former Red Bulls DP Tim Cahill - were drawn into Group C with France (7), Peru (10) and Denmark (19), making them the only country drawn into a group with three Top 20 nations.