The New York Red Bulls 2021 preseason is one of the most important in recent memory. A new manager, a load of new players (both signed and on loan), and an entire league looking to have something resembling a normal season again all lay ahead.
On Wednesday, the team announced the tentative schedule of five friendly matches that will hopefully allow Gerhard Struber’s squad a chance to develop and learn a familiar-but-still-new tactical system before Major League Soccer’s 26th season. The team confirmed that highlights and match information will be available following each game, but did not confirm if broadcasts are happening. Hard kickoff times have yet to be determined as well.
Following a two-week span of basic training at the Red Bulls training facility, the team will depart the frozen tundra of Morris County and head down to Florida on March 20th for the more traditional preseason to officially begin. As has become the norm, RBNY will set up home base at Bradenton’s IMG Academy for half a month. But in a change from the routine of recent years, the club will not hold an additional training camp in Arizona due to the shrunken timeframe and lingering pandemic logistical concerns.
Prior to leaving, the Red Bulls are scheduled to have one match at the training facility against a yet-to-be-named opponent. Last year Ecuadorian side C.S.D. Independiente del Valle played in an early February match there, losing 2-1, but the likelihood of a professional team being lined up for a short-notice scrimmage in the current climate is low. A local lower league or college side is more likely, perhaps the recently expanded semi-pro club FC Motown.
Down in Florida, four scrimmages in ten days against professional outfits await the Red Bulls. They’ll face Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF on March 24 and April 3 respectively. The latter date will also serve as a split-squad scrimmage with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL Championship. Led by former Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty, Nashville was one of the league’s surprises last year in their inaugural season. Meanwhile fellow first year club Miami struggled and are rebuilding under new manager Phil Neville.
Perhaps the game sneakily most interesting to Red Bulls fans is the one against a second division side. The Miami FC (yes, that “The” is legally supposed to be there) will meet the Red Bulls at the IMG Academy in Bradenton on March 27 as they also go through a major roster overhaul. A handful of former Red Bull II talent, including János Löbe, Devon Williams, and Bolu Akinyode, are currently on Miami’s roster as the club approaches its second season in the USL umbrella.
A final match against a to-be-determined opponent is currently scheduled for April 10 at Red Bull Arena after the team returns from camp in Florida. It will be a shorter (and colder) preseason than is usual for the Red Bulls, so the pressure to show good cohesion and performances will be perhaps be higher than usual for Gerhard Struber’s first extended training time with his new team.
But however gelled the team may or may not end up being, the games are starting soon.