Chris Armas: “The older players and some of the younger players have been through some great experiences. We’ve gone deep in the Champions League, we’ve gone deep in the [Lamar Hunt U.S] Open Cup, we’ve gone deep in the MLS playoffs.”
By Michael Lewis
There’s nothing like experience, especially when it comes to international competition.
So, Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas hopes that his team reaching last year’s Concacaf Champions League semifinals and the MLS Cup conference final will go a long way in helping the squad in this year’s tournament.
New York visits Atletico Pantoja in the first leg of the Round of 16 at Felix Sanchez Stadium Wednesday at 8 p.m.
“It will help. Those experiences help,” Armas said during a media conference call Tuesday afternoon. ‘It’s what veteran players have at every sport and every level. The veterans have been there. They understand the demands of those games, that every play matters, the savviness required in those games, the execution, the set pieces, pressure.
“If it’s true, then we’re in good shape there because a lot of those guys have been around now. The older players and some of the younger players have been through some great experiences. We’ve gone deep in the Champions League, we’ve gone deep in the [Lamar Hunt U.S] Open Cup, we’ve gone deep in the MLS playoffs.
Last year the Red Bulls won the Supporters Shield as the team with the best record in Major League Soccer before losing to eventual champion Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They also reached the CCL semifinals before being eliminated by Chivas. And in 2017, the Red Bulls lost in the Open Cup final.
“Those games are in a certain bucket but specifically in the Champions League, when there’s international competition, there’s another element,” Armas said. “It’s the feel of a World Cup qualifier. Those players are playing for pride and a country behind them. And it’s something that you can’t quantify, So, I think those experiences, the deep runs will play dividends and we’ll see it right away tomorrow night.”
The Red Bulls will host Atletico Pantoja in the second leg at Red Bull Arena Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.