Chris Armas: “We have a good plan in many ways, similar to what we did in the lead-up to last time to New York City.” (FrontRowSoccer Photo)
By Michael Lewis
NEW YORK — With head coach Jesse Marsch in Europe seeking a coaching license it’s business as usual for the Red Bulls as they prepare for Saturday’s Hudson River Derby.
Assistant coach Chris Armas has run practices at the Red Bulls Training Facility in Hanover, N.J. as Marsch pursues his UEFA Coaching License in Poland.
“What he’s doing is important for his career,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said at MLS Rivalry Week media day at the league offices Tuesday. “It’s not as if he hasn’t equipped us for the last 2 1/2 years. When i say us, the more senior players, the leaders of the team and has equipped us in a way to handle him not being there for a couple of days. Has the timing been unfortunate? Absolutely.”
Assistant coach Chris Armas stated that striker Bradley Wright-Phillips recently said, ‘Look, we can almost run training ourselves. We know what’s coming.”
New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira wasn’t so sure.
“No, the coaches run the training session,” he said. “The coaches who will be there will run the training session.
“The players are never going to run the sessions. The day the players are going to run the sessions, the coaches are dead.”
The man who ran the Red Bulls sessions this week is alive and well — Armas, whom Robles called “a legend in his own self.”
“They’re on the same page on what they expect from the team and what they expect from training,” Robles said. “So, we won’t be missing a beat.”
In this day and age of high tech and relatively inexpensive international phone calls, Marsch has been in touch with Armas and his staff every day since he left for Poland Sunday.
“We’ve spoken each day since he’s been gone,” Armas said. “We’ve talked about training, we’ve talked about workloads, we’ve talked about some of the exercises that are in the repertoire.”
It has been a question of making sure the practices are balanced.
“Coming off a busy week, an emotional week, just to get that right,” Armas said. “We have a good plan in many ways, similar to what we did in the lead-up to last time to New York City.”
The Red Bulls upended NYCFC in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup last at Red Bull Arena last Wednesday, 1-0. Armas coached the teams while Marsch sat out a one-match suspension for his ejection from a 2016 Open Cup encounter with Philadelphia.
Armas, who forged a reputation as a tenacious defensive midfielder in Major League Soccer and for the U.S. national team, said he has been his own man at training.
“I will not try to be Jess or anyone else,” he said. “You could be yourself, my voice when we’re running sessions. Jesse may run one and I’m running the other. A lot of the messaging ends up being the same, but how we say it, of course, is different. It’s a different voice and probably a little bit different feel.
“The more we spend so much time together, we might sound like each other. I might sound like him at times, but when I filled in not too long ago, I would say much the same but with a little different twist and delivery, whether that’s in the video room or on the field.
“They know the exercise, they know the routine. We know what Friday looks like already. There’s not a whole lot that’s going into it. It will have a little bit of a different feel, but much the same.”
Marsch is expected to return in time for Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. kickoff with NYCFC. If not, Armas should be well prepared to run the show. It shouldn’t be anything new. He already has one derby victory under his belt.