Bradley Wright-Phillips got the lone goal for the New York Red Bulls in the team’s last (we think) friendly before its 2018 season starts in earnest. The scrimmage in Tucson, Arizona, was nominally in the service of the 2018 Mobile Mini Sun Cup, but for RBNY it was entirely about getting potential starters and subs closer to match fitness before February 22 and CONCACAF Champions League roll around.
So for Sporting Kansas City on February 14, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch’s starting lineup was mostly recognized first-choice players.
The Red Bulls got on the board first from their first corner of the match. On-loan midfielder Marc Rzatkowski delivered a great cross into the middle of the area, then watched some pinball action in front of goal before BWP made a turnaround shot that caromed off Tim Melia and inside the far post.
Sporting Kansas City would level the match in the 77th minute. Felipe Hernandez - a KC Academy product - converted from just outside the area. After the corner was taken the ball was cleared outside the area, but not all the way - and Hernandez was able to fire through the scrum of players in front of him to find the net.
HIGHLIGHTS: #SportingKC and #RBNY drew 1-1 in Tucson.— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) February 15, 2018
BWP opened the scoring with a deflected shot off Melia, after a scrum in the box.
Felipe Hernandez equalized for #SKC with a 2nd half #Golazo! Great half-volley by the 19 year old #SPR midfielder.#SKCvNY #MLS #MLSPreseason pic.twitter.com/gW6erojjbO
The Red Bulls reserve team will take over Mobile Mini Sun Cup duties from here, as the first team heads to Costa Rica and CONCACAF Champions League - via Houston, where they will have a few days to finalize their preparations.
Head coach Jesse Marsch appreciated the opportunity to take on an opponent he knew would push his team hard:
“I think they gave us a really good match. It was combative at times, but there was also some good football at times. For sure when us and Kansas City play each other, we both have very aggressive tactics and it makes for a combative game. That will be good preparation for us. I think that still for the most part it was still a clean game which was good, and I think we got closer to where we want to be based on what we experienced tonight.”
Fitness is clearly a priority for RBNY at the moment, and Marsch made only one substitution - Rzatkowski for Amando Moreno in the 75th minute. Everyone else who started the game stuck around for 90 minutes.
“The part about pushing guys for 90 minutes was really good. Guys dug in. It wasn’t easy, the field was heavy, but really happy with how much the guys put into it. I think from a fitness perspective we’ll be closer and more ready to go for next week. And then yeah, there’s a lot of little mistakes in there, a lot of little things that aren’t perfect, but right now it’s not going to be,” said Marsch.
“It’s going to be more about mentality, and making sure that we understand this is going to be about grinding out a result in Costa Rica, about committing to each other, about dealing with difficult moments and capitalizing on opportunities. We’ll look at some things carefully, but we know that we have a lot of work to do yet and we’ll make sure that we take some positives from today, look at some good things, and move forward in a good way.”
The only player who wasn't on the pitch was Felipe as he flew back to New York to accompany his wife and son as they were expecting a brand new addition to their family.
The Red Bulls are one week away from the start of their 2018 season, and this was likely the last time we’ll see them play until they are in Costa Rica kicking off against Olimpia. The final countdown to the new year of RBNY soccer starts now.