After a string of cancelled games due to COVID-19, the New York Red Bulls finally hit the field for a 60-minute preseason scrimmage against The Miami FC of the USL Championship at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. While New York kept details close to the vest, Miami did give social media updates on the two 30-minute halves. An opener from former Red Bulls II midfielder Devon “Speedy” Williams, who won a USL Cup with the II team in 2016, was followed by a goal by Adonijah Reid to give Miami a 2-0 victory.
We could get used to this.— The Miami FC (@TheMiamiFC) March 28, 2021
2021 @USLChampionship. pic.twitter.com/toOttPd2jK
The biggest asterisk on this match is that this was New York’s first competitive match against another team, having only played split-squad scrimmages in training so far this preseason. All three scheduled friendlies prior to this (against West Chester SC, New Amsterdam FC in New Jersey and against Nashville SC in Florida) have been cancelled out of precaution due to the presence of positive COVID-19 cases in group tests. It’s something head coach Gerhard Struber spoke about with the media last week when going over the squad’s preparation.
“The situation is good but we need time and we need friendly games,” Struber said in a media call. “Every friendly game, we’ve had to cancel. It was clear for us that we shouldn’t take a big risk but right now we have no game in bodies, we have no game in our brain and right now it’s not so sexy but we have to accept this and hope that we can play (on Saturday) against Miami.”
Unfortunately the Red Bulls dipped their toes in the match fitness waters against a Miami team that promises to be one of the USL’s strongest this year. The Miami FC is a nearly whole new roster with only four players returning from its inaugural USL Championship season. Forgoing three players that have previous experience with the team (NASL, NPSL, or NISA) everyone else is a fresh face including the two goalscorers. Miami head coach Paul Dalglish, son of Liverpool and Celtic legend Kenny Dalglish, has been hard at work tightening up a defense that allowed the third most goals in the Eastern Conference in 2020.
Surely a help with earning the clean sheet was the USL return of defender Paco Craig for Miami. The guy was a stud for Louisville City in 2018 and 19, and he’s looking to return to the USL with a bang. Plus, you have to admit to yourself that you got your ankles broken by the dude who’s dad made the absolute banger “Karma Chameleon”. But putting 80s classics aside, there is another underlying feeling.
Club owner Riccardo Silva is always anxious to use his connections to bring in new talent and seems to have moved to the offense as well. Senior CONCACAF internationals like Christiano François (Haiti), Billy Forbes (Turks & Caicos), and Lamar Walker (Jamaica) have all gone to South Beach this offseason. Plus the backfield also includes former Italian international defender Luca Antonelli, who came on a deal that turned some heads.
It’s a reason why earlier this month I called this game out specifically. As someone who roots for both of these teams a lot, I was certainly a bit biased, but it was clear on paper this was going to be a match between two teams bringing in a lot of new talent and having to build that chemistry quickly. Both teams are still gelling and Miami had one preseason match more than RBNY (against an NPSL team) prior to this.
While the Red Bulls certainly would have preferred to win, a non-regulation 60-minute scrimmage with a rotated second-string lineup is a game being played for fitness and troubleshooting rather than for a result. New York looks to hopefully rebound in full friendlies against Inter Miami CF and the Tampa Bay Rowdies in a few days before the team flies back home to begin the season.