The New York Red Bulls have left their Tucson training camp for Houston, where they will continue preparations for CONCACAF Champions League. CCL starts for RBNY on February 22 in Costa Rica, so it is appropriate the team is turning its attention away from Arizona and toward readying itself for its first competitive game of the new season.
But the New York Red Bulls are also still obliged to finish the exhibition tournament they started in Tucson, and the Mobile Mini Sun Cup continues today with a game between RBNY and...um...Houston.
So RBNY is in Houston on the same day it is scheduled to play Houston in Tucson. Tempting as it is to suggest this is the result of a catastrophic mis-reading of the preseason schedule, it is - of course - exactly as the Red Bulls planned.
The II team, and whatever portion of the MLS squad that didn’t travel to Texas, will play the Dynamo in Arizona and see out the remainder of the Mobile Mini Sun Cup. Meanwhile, the CCL squad will finalize its preparations for its February 22 game against Olimpia.
RBNY is demonstrating it can walk and chew gum at the same time, and this is a positive and necessary part of its preparations for the season ahead. The price of success is more competitions to play and therefore more games to prepare for: in 2018, the Red Bulls will start the year playing for the privilege of clogged schedule from the start.
If RBNY successfully gets past Olimpia in CCL, then its next round of that tournament will be played over the course of a week in early March: the first leg of the 2018 CCL quarterfinals is scheduled for March 6-8, and the second leg should be played between March 13 and 15. The Red Bulls already have five matches scheduled for March - four in MLS and one in CCL - and if they win through to the CCL quarterfinals, they’ll have to manage seven games in a month.
As such, it makes a lot of sense to start testing and developing squad depth right now. And the reserves and trialists who play Houston Dynamo on February 17 are surely playing for spot starts with the first team next month, when RBNY will hope it is playing well enough to have the headache of trying to advance in CCL without torpedoing its performances in MLS.