TUCSON, Ariz. — With two out of three of their most important performers arriving in training camp, the Red Bulls have set their sights on their first important objective of 2017: the CONCACAF Champions League.
Striker Bradley Wright-Phillips ha arrived here after a stay in New Jersey for the birth of his child and goalkeeper Luis Robles reported to the side after a month with the U.S. national team.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who also attended national team camp is still back east, awaiting the birth of his child.
“We know right now there is no time to waste,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said.
That is an understatement.
The Red Bulls host the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg at Red Bull Arena Feb. 22, before visiting B.C. Place for the second leg March 2.
“The energy and the work ethic has been great,” Marsch said. “It’s been a little difficult because we’re missing some key guys and to get ready for our big match, we’re going to have to crunch some things in pretty quickly and get guys up to speed, but I think it was important to have this group together.”
Robles, who played the first half of the United States 1-0 win over Jamaica Friday night, understood what lies ahead.
“Part of our challenge is that a lot of the starters from last year haven’t been involved,” he said. “The real challenge for us is to get guys on the field that are ready to play in two and half weeks, not only because it’s a challenge, but it’s an important game for us.”
The Red Bulls will meet Sacramento Republic FC in California Friday before facing archrival New York City FC in the opening game of the Desert Diamond Cup here Feb. 15.
“The big New York City match, in preseason, which should be interesting,” Marsch said. “I think it’ll be a good game and it will be our last, final warmup before our big CCL match.”