Independence Day might have felt a little more like Groundhog Day for the New York Red Bulls this year, as the team is seemingly locked in to a schedule that sees it forced to play the same opponent repeatedly. Over the last four games, RBNY has played the same two opponents twice: NYCFC and Philadelphia Union were faced both in MLS and US Open Cup. Next up, RBNY plays New England Revolution in the same league-and-cup double-serving that is its current fixture-list fate.
Jesse Marsch has already had his fill of this quirky situation, but he is at least familiar with the particular challenge of seemingly having to play the same opponent again and again.
“We’ve seen now what the turnaround is, we’ve learned from it. We’ve learned that when you get a result against New York City in one game, that it incites them for the next game - and we took that and applied it to the Philly game, and I think we were more prepared, and I think then we were more prepared and eventually came out with a big win in that game.”
New England is neither NYCFC nor Philly, as Marsch is well aware: “It’s a new challenge now, because we have a league match first - that has huge implications for both teams - and then obviously a quarterfinal Cup match which we both value a lot. Unfortunately, we have to go on the road for both and play on turf for both - but, whatever man, we’ll be ready.”
Part of the challenge is keeping the players focused on the game in front of them: “It’s one at a time - I don’t think there’s any huge secrets between our teams; we know each other pretty well. They didn’t have a great result in Philly: that team is full of fighters; that’s one of the hallmarks of Jay’s teams and the hallmark of a lot of their players. They have quality but they’re fighters.”
The Red Bulls will have personnel issues, with several players missing: Kemar Lawrence and Michael Amir Murillo out for Gold Cup; Tyler Adams suspended; Aurelien Collin not quite recovered in time to be available for selection. But for Marsch, “it’s never going to be about who’s not there; it’s going to be about - for both teams - who’s there.”
So for RBNY’s head coach, there is nothing to gained by dwelling on the players he will be missing, or those Jay Heaps can’t call on for the Revs (both Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe are with the USA in Gold Cup action). Rather, the task is for the available Red Bulls to get themselves up for what’s waiting for them at Gillette Stadium.
“The identity of both teams is cemented and we know what those games look like. And it doesn’t take huge reminders for us to remember that we’re not good at Foxborough. And they’re very good there - they’ve been very good there for the last year and a half,” Marsch noted.
The specific challenges the head coach expects to face in Foxborough aren’t really related to particular players in the Revs’ lineup: “The turf is not easy, the field is a little small small, the energy they have in those games, a lot of time you are dealing with weather, they’re very combative, they understand the turf, they’re confident - but we’ll be sure to go there and be ready to fight.”
The Red Bulls aren’t often short of effort: they’re entire playing style and ideology is based on a high-tempo, high-press, never-settle approach to the game. But they have been coming up short of goals and results too often this season. They seek to put that right in New England on July 5.