Aaron Long (right): “I don’t think they have gotten the results they have been looking for yet so they are going to be desperate.” (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
HANOVER, N.J. — The Red Bulls will enter their first Eastern Conference match of the MLS season against a team that is desperate.
Winless Orlando City SC is desperate all right, desperate for points with a 0-2-1 record (and one point) and a ninth-place standing in the 11-team conference. The Red Bulls (2-1-0, six points) are in third place.
“It is a team that needs points,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. “They are desperate for points. There is a lot of pressure on them after the offseason they had with the player acquisitions to get their team rolling.”
Center back Aaron Long concurred.
“I don’t think they have gotten the results they have been looking for yet so they are going to be desperate,” he said. “They are going to be home in front of their fans so it is really going to be tough game.”
One of those new acquisitions was midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who was dealt to Orlando City SC by the Red Bulls. Kljestan, however, could not play in the Lions’ opening two matches because he had to serve a two-game suspension he incurred during a tunnel scuffle with Toronto FC in the second leg of the conference semifinal series last November.
His former teammates haven’t forgotten the fact that the one-time Seton Hall University standout led the league in assists the past two seasons (20 and 17, respectively). They realize one lethal pass to striker Dom Dywer could decide the game.
“First and foremost, we are going to face Sacha, who we all know is a great player, Long said. “He is going to be up for the game so that in itself is going to be a challenge. They have a good attacking group.”
Of course, Marsch hasn’t been planning just for Orlando. New York another encounter looming over the horizon — against Chivas in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals in Guadalajara, Mexico Wednesday.
“We do have a few days in between matches,” he said. “It is a one o’clock game so there is plenty of time for guys to regenerate. So we will have to be smart about which guys we push and which guys will be rested to make sure that we are ready for Wednesday’s match.”
“We have a little bit of a plan, but I think we have to go through the week and see how guys are feeling and get guys back from international break and then make sure we put a team on the field that goes after the Orlando points and can turn around to get ready for Wednesday.”