The New York Red Bulls have one priority for their 2018 preseason: the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League. There will be no easing into the season this year - the team will kick off its competitive schedule with a CCL knockout series. This was the case last year, and the Red Bulls flubbed the challenge of getting off to a fast start, finding themselves bounced out of CCL by Vancouver Whitecaps. Faced with a pretty much identical schedule in 2018, RBNY opted for a pretty much identical preseason: two warm-weather training camps, separated by a brief return to the cold comforts of home in mid-winter.
As was the case last year, the culmination of the team’s preseason prep is an exhibition tournament in Tucson, AZ. As was the case last year, RBNY’s first team squad will leave that tournament early to focus on final preparations for its first CCL game - this time, against Olimpia on February 22.
On February 5, the team announced its specific plan for the last phase of preseason: the CCL squad will be in Arizona from February 6 to February 17, then move to Houston, where it will stay until it travels to Costa Rica - where it will face Olimpia at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose on February 22.
The Red Bulls are free to add scrimmages and friendlies to their preseason schedule, but currently they have three games arranged between now and February 17: against Phoenix Rising on February 10; against Sporting Kansas City on February 14;
against Houston Dynamo on February 17.
Nope. Seems RBNY will play two friendlies with its CCL contenders, and then hand over to the second team for the game on February 17.
Those games, it can be assumed, will be used to elevate first team form and fitness, and make final decisions about the players who will travel for the first leg of the series against Olimpia.
The Red Bulls have
two three further games scheduled in Arizona from February 17: against Houston Dynamo that day; against Portland Timbers on February 21, and their tournament finale (opponent to be determined) on February 24. Those games will be contested by those players not required for CCL duty - assumed to be mostly second-teamers, trialists, and whatever injured or inexperienced first-teamers don’t make the cut for Costa Rica.
RBNY left its Florida training camp last week talking about the need to concentrate on the challenge posed by Olimpia in CCL. “It’ll be a smaller group that goes to Arizona at first,” head coach Jesse Marsch told the club’s communications team. “We’ll really start to focus on what Olimpia does, who they are, what we need to do to address them and make sure that we’re fully prepared.”
When CCL kicks off the season, the success or failure of preseason can be judged by the team’s success or failure in CCL. Last year, the Red Bulls took a 3-1 aggregate loss to Vancouver Whitecaps from their opening games of the season. They look to improve on that experience this year.