Sean Davis: “It’s important for the guys that step in to do their job and I am confident they will.” (Keith Furman/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
With four players on international duty this weekend, the Red Bulls’ depth will be tested again at Red Bull Arena, this time by Minnesota United.
Head coach Jesse Marsch must replace both outside backs, Kemar Lawrence (left) and Michael Amir Murillo (right), who play for Jamaica and Panama, respectively, and holding midfielder Tyler Adams (United States) for Saturday’s 7 p.m. encounter. It also doesn’t help that defender Fidel Escobar. is with the Panamanian squad as well.
In-between two CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matches against Tijuana, the Red Bulls deployed a Starting XI that used mostly reserve players en route to a stunning 4-0 triumph over the Portland Timbers in their home opener March 10.
So, this isn’t anything new.
“From the very beginning in preseason, Jesse said guys are going to be called upon, and when their number is called upon, they are expected to do a job, and so far, guys have been able to do that,” captain and goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “So for us, the expectation is high for each and every person that gets called on, but because we’ve done well, there’s this idea that we can continue to build on that. I feel like this is something we’re going to do this weekend.”
Regular midfielder Sean Davis, who was able to play in that Portland match due to a yellow-card suspension from the CCL, was right in the middle of things.
“I think one of the big talking points was how much depth this team has, and we showed that against Portland,” he said about the 7 p.m. encounter. “But, again, it’s not about the past it’s about the next game and it’s important for the guys that step in to do their job and I am confident they will. It is exciting that they get their opportunity and you know I was once in their shoes where you are hoping for a game wherever you can get one and it is a great chance for them. We have so many good players on this team that I am really excited that they get the opportunity to show to the rest of the fans and the rest of the league.”
Veteran defender-midfielder Connor Lade, who is expected to get the start at right back, has other things on his mind, such putting the 1-0 road loss at Real Salt Lake last week into the past.
“I think we are a little disappointed with our play against Salt Lake because we really did not look like us,” he said. “We weren’t really happy the way we came out and kind of playing with the ball and not playing against the ball and not doing the things that make us good.
“So, we are working really hard this week, going over video and get back to what makes us good and we are feeling really confident going into this game. We know that Minnesota is going to be another tough game because they have looked really good this year, they have a lot of good guys and we know it is going to be a tough game.”
Minnesota, whose defense was like a sieve last season (league-worst 70 goals surrendered), is greatly improved. The Loons (2-1) are coming off a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire.
Last year the Red Bulls defeated Minnesota (10-18-6 in 2017) away, 3-0. But that was then.
“They have been really good,” Marsch said. “I thought against Chicago they were dominant. Their midfielders played really well and controlled the game and then they are much more sound defensively. So last year, they gave up so many goals, but I think this year they are better in the back, they are more organized and they have gotten good performances from their goalkeeper. So, it is a much-improved team from last year and a team that is playing really well so that is our expectations is to be put to the test.”