The New York Red Bulls have a busy week ahead of them. On Monday, February 27, the team was at its traditional mid-week base: the Training Facility in Hanover. But it will be a while before they are in Hanover again. On Tuesday, they fly to Vancouver for the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against the Whitecaps. Once that game is played on Thursday, RBNY must turn attention to playing Atlanta United in Atlanta on Sunday, March 5. The team is scheduled to travel to Atlanta on Friday in preparation for its MLS season-opener.
One thing at a time: head coach Jesse Marsch was mostly focused on Vancouver after Monday’s training session. The Whitecaps caught most observers by surprise with a weekend trade for Brek Shea, sending Giles Barnes to Orlando City in exchange.
Marsch admitted the trade presents RBNY with an unexpected challenge, since Shea hasn’t played a minute for Vancouver. But the newest Whitecap is also a well-known player in MLS, with a relatively high-profile career.
“When I saw they made the trade for Brek Shea I thought it made sense,” said Marsch at the RBNY Training Facility. “I think Shea is a good player. I expect him to help them and he is going to play on the wing because Jordan Harvey is a solid left back.”
“It now throws a bit of a wrench into preparations,” he continued, “because we won’t know what it would look like, but we know what Brek Shea can do and we will put that in our scouting and see what we can do with it.”
Vancouver will have to compensate for the loss of two starters from the first leg: Cristian Techera was sent off in that game for a studs-up challenge to Sal Zizzo’s fertility, and Hurtado was yellow-carded earlier in the game. Both will be suspended for the second leg. The Caps’ big-splash off-season signing, Fredy Montero is expected to play, and Shea seems likely to fill the other vacancy in Vancouver’s starting lineup.
With regard to his own team, Marsch welcomed the return of more options for his match-day plans. Kemar Lawrence was suspended for the first leg, but is available for the game in Vancouver. And Marsch was excited to learn Mike Grella and Damien Perrinelle are making strides toward full fitness. Gideon Baah is not ready to be part of a game-day 18, but he is running and working his way back to recovery from the injury that ended his 2016 season.
Talking about his options for the game in Vancouver, Marsch made clear he was happy with what he’d seen out of Justin Bilyeu and Aaron Long - two players who were reserve-teamers last year - but that he was also encouraged by the expanding pool of players he can count on for the match ahead.
“They will all be available, but Kemar Lawrence is back and we are happy to see what Justin did for us in the last game. We expect this to be a tight game for sure and we are going to need a full bench to get a result that we need in this game.”
One thing Marsch didn’t want to talk about: the report out of Salzburg that Fredrik Gulbrandsen is being lined up for a move to the New York side of the Red Bull Global Soccer family. RBNY’s head coach offered no comment on the matter, but did say he was familiar with the player.
Even if Gulbrandsen happened to be in New York right now, it doesn’t seem possible he’d be able to contribute to RBNY’s double-game week. CCL and Atlanta will be confronted with the players in the squad right now. And the team would prefer to be flying to Georgia in search of more cause for celebration rather than in need of consolation. RBNY’s MLS season will start in Atlanta, but the initial mood will be set in CCL in Vancouver.