The New York Red Bulls have had the mixed blessing of short preparation time for their 2017 MLS season-opener. The team has not yet been home after the disappointing CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal defeat to Vancouver Whitecaps. Instead, it headed straight to Georgia to get ready to be the first side ever to play Atlanta United in a competitive game.
It is a clean-slate match, as the players well know.
Win, and the sins of CCL will be largely forgiven and forgotten: it will be difficult to sustain the suspicion that the team is struggling to find its rhythm in a formation (Red Bull Global Socccer's preferred tactic, the 4-2-2-2) that it struggled with last season. Another lackluster performance, however, and the post-game reaction is largely already written: it will be the third consecutive time this year that RBNY has come out for a big game and failed to assert itself convincingly.
On Atlanta's side of the ball, there are fewer burdens of expectation. The team is brand new. The stands will be filled with fans who have been waiting a long time for their very own MLS squad to take the field in a truly meaningful game. And despite a roster laden with experienced pros and a world-class coach (former Argentina manager Tata Martino) stalking the sidelines, expectations are generally modest for an expansion team in its first season - and particularly one playing its first game.
Game One of a 34-game season doesn't decide anything, but that doesn't mean it is insignificant to either side. Low expectations or not, Atlanta United is a team built to compete at the upper end of MLS from the start. And RBNY wants to shrug off its CCL snafu quickly and get back to winning ways before murmurs of discontent in the fan base get any louder.
The Red Bulls had an unsettling off-season - ditching team captain Dax McCarty; carelessly losing Sporting Director Ali Curtis to an unspecified difference of opinion within the club; trying to gel the squad around a new (ish) formation while injuries and absences jolted and disrupted the preseason camp. But the Red Bulls have had unsettling off-seasons in the past. And as was proven after the last one in 2015, wins on the field are the best medicine for any club's ailments.
Per livesoccertv.com, here's where US-based viewers can find the game: