It was always going to be a difficult off-season for the New York Red Bulls this year. MLS teams routinely struggle to be at their best for the start of the season. In 2017, RBNY faced the task of being better than usual by the end of an unusually short preseason - because in 2017 the Red Bulls have to get started with CONCACAF Champions League, and there is a title up for grabs if the team can find the right form.
RBNY’s preseason progress has been halting, disrupted by the fact the squad wasn’t really able to assemble fully until the beginning of February and by injuries that have either proven slow to heal or cropped up during the early friendlies of the year. But the Red Bulls have announced there are more players available for CCL than might have expected.
And RBNY has perhaps lucked out in that its quarterfinal opponent is another MLS team: the Vancouver Whitecaps have struggled with much the same issues the Red Bulls have faced. While RBNY has just about managed to get a full squad together in time for CCL, the ‘Caps are expected to be missing a few key pieces of their roster on Wednesday, February 22.
Per reports out of Vancouver as the ‘Caps finalize their preparations for a cross-country trip to Red Bull Arena, recently-signed attacker Fredy Montero isn’t yet fit enough to be included in the squad. Also missing from the teams’ CCL roster will be Yordy Reyna, who is visibly unable to play at the moment.
No official diagnosis on Reyna yet but was in walking boot and crutches. Robbo confirmed he'll be missing for a few weeks #VWFC— AFTN (@aftncanada) February 19, 2017
And two other key attacking players - Uruguayan Nicolas Mezquida and Costa Rican Christian Bolanos - have been ruled out of the trip to RBNY.
Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson is well regarded, and he’s been working without new arrivals Reyan and Montero for most of the preseason - so the team is missing their reputations more than their proven contribution to its efforts.
Still, there is no changing the fact the Whitecaps will be missing four players they are expected to rely on when at anything close to full strength. Neither team will claim to be at its best on February 22, but Vancouver will be further away from its ideal starting lineup than the Red Bulls.
We’ll find out whether that is truly an advantage for RBNY on Wednesday night. Strangely, the weather is co-operating: there will be near spring temperatures will be in NYC Tri-State Area. So come on over to Red Bull Arena for the earliest, and most important, season-opener in RBNY history.