It’s relatively rare for the New York Red Bulls to start a season in MLS with back-to-back wins, even rarer for the team’s top scorer and multi-game match-winner to be Own Goal. But that’s where RBNY is in 2017 after two games of the regular season.
The latest unusual challenge in an unusual start to the year: a mid-March snowstorm and exceptionally cold weather have hampered the team’s preparations for its big trip to Seattle. But RBNY got a little help from its NFL neighbors and moved its Thursday training session to the New York Jets Atlantic Health Practice Facility in Florham Park - just the next town over from the Red Bull Training Facility in Hanover.
“It’s not been a great weather week for us right now and we are trying to make the best of it, the Jets were really nice to help us out right now,” said Jesse Marsch. “It’s a great facility here and it’s a lot of fun to come somewhere new and I thought the energy of training was good. I always wanted to come here and it was great.”
Using the indoor practice field, the Red Bulls were able to work out at a more hospitable temperature than Mother Nature was in the mood to provide. And they warmed up for the trip to play MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders at Century Link Field with a few unusual routines. Despite a weather-disrupted week of training, if the match in Seattle comes down to field goals, the Red Bulls are more than ready.
This is the second long road trip for the Red Bulls in the last three weeks. On March 2, the team played in Vancouver in the second leg of its 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. From there it went straight to Atlanta for its MLS season-opener on March 5. Then it was back home for the March 11 game against Colorado Rapids, and now the team is on heading back across the country.
But it sounds like Marsch is enjoying the challenge:
“It’s not easy. The beginning parts of the season often are like this, where you are kind of going back and forth to the west coast to get a lot of those games out of the way. It’s another big game because it’s Seattle’s home opener and they’ve won the Championship, so they’ll be coming back and the fans will be excited. It’ll be sold out, I’m sure; it’ll be a big crowd. So we know that they’ll be excited to put a lot into it. It means that it’s a hard game for us, but I like it. I like that we’ve got some really tough game at the beginning of the year that test us and we’ll learn a lot about ourselves.”
In his last chat with media before the team takes off for Seattle, Marsch also mentioned that he’s looking at how to get Michael Murillo into a match, as he has impressed in training for the club.
Another new arrival to the squad, Fredrik Gulbrandsen, is getting his head around the travel distances involved in MLS: “It’s normal here, but not so normal in Austria or in Norway. But we played some games in the Europa league and then we had to travel a little bit, but not five/six hours. But I think it’s going to be OK; it’s not a problem.”
Gulbrandsen played his first game for his new team inside his first 24 hours in the USA, so he might be the only Red Bull for whom the past week has not felt unsettled at all. Unsurprisingly, he’s feeling more prepared for the Seattle game than he was for his RBNY debut: “It’s good to get started as soon as possible. Now I feel a little better - been training with the team and get to know the guys a bit better, so I’m ready to go.”
It will be interesting to see if the Norwegian wins his first start or Marsch elects to keep him as an option off the bench against the Sounders.
The Red Bulls are heading to meet a team that has scored the same number of goals as they have so far this season (three), but only has one point to show for it. In their first home game since winning MLS Cup, expect the Sounders to be keen to impress upon their fans and themselves that last season’s late run to glory was no fluke.