The New York Red Bulls will be splitting their preseason between Florida and Arizona this year, and will announce their schedule for both trips once they have finalized all necessary arrangements. But we now know have a pretty good sense of what the Arizona leg of RBNY’s preseason will look like, because the schedule for the 2019 Mobile Mini Sun Cup has been announced.
The official schedule release for the exhibition tournament came on January 4. RBNY is signed up for four games:
New York Red Bulls at 2019 Mobile Mini Sun Cup
RBNY vs Real Salt Lake @ Kino North Stadium; 3:00 pm, Eastern; Wednesday, February 13
RBNY vs Portland Timbers @ Kino North Stadium; 9:00 pm, Eastern; Saturday, February 16
RBNY vs FC Tucson @ Kino North Stadium; 5:00 pm, Eastern; Wednesday, February 20
RBNY vs FC Dallas @ Kino North Stadium; 2:00 pm, Eastern; Saturday, February 23
Four games in 10 days is a tidy little schedule of games to get some form and fitness together before the start of the new season. Of course, sharp-eyed RBNY fans will have noticed that the Red Bulls’ season will have already started before Mobile Mini Sun Cup finishes: the team will be playing Atletico Pantoja in Dominican Republic in CONCACAF Champions League on February 20, which is the same day it will also be playing FC Tucson in Arizona in MMS Cup.
How does that work? The same way it has worked for the last two seasons, we can assume. The Red Bulls have made combining a preseason tournament in Arizona with CCL a regular part of their year since 2017. Two seasons ago, the team had Desert Diamond Cup (as Mobile Mini Cup used to be known) on the same day as CCL; in 2018, the team had a friendly in Tucson the day before it had CCL in Costa Rica: it is the club’s current preferred preseason routine.
As we are now accustomed to seeing, RBNY will split its squad. The first team required for CCL will leave Arizona early and focus on final preparations for the opening competitive game of the season; left behind in Tucson to carry on with the preseason schedule will be a group of reserves, II-teamers, and trialists: it is the Red Bull way.
This approach to preseason does have one particular benefit for RBNY; it helps prepare the fringes of the squad for the task of stepping in for established first-teamers in MLS, when and if the CCL and league schedules collide. Thank this approach for the 4-0 win the Red Bulls produced with a largely second-string lineup in their 2018 MLS season opener against Portland Timbers.
There are other ways to manage the challenge of preparing for CCL. For example, this year’s Mobile Mini Sun Cup also features Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City - both prepping for the same CCL tournament that will preoccupy RBNY in February and (we hope) March. Those teams play their last scheduled games in the MMS Cup on February 13: the same day RBNY will play its first game of the tournament. (KC, incidentally, is scheduled to play two games at the same time on the same day in MMS Cup.)
It is likely that RBNY will effectively follow KC and Houston out of Tucson after its game on February 13 - the team has preferred to give its first-teamers about a week to focus exclusively on preparing for a CCL season-opener in the past. The second-string would then see out the remaining three kick-abouts in Arizona.
That likelihood makes the first half of the Red Bulls’ preseason - in Florida - particularly important for the first team with regard to getting the CCL squad up to speed for competitive play. And it raises the possibility that there may be a hastily scheduled scrimmage or two added to RBNY’s schedule in Tucson, if the technical staff feels it needs a few more friendlies to get players closer to match-ready for February 20.