By Michael Lewis
The Red Bulls have a copious scouting staff that has been known to look under rocks for information on opponents.
For their first encounter in this year’s Concacaf Champions League, Major League Soccer side might have fallen short of its goals because it hasn’t been easy to find out about its opponents, Atletico Pantoja.
The Dominican Republic squad has a new coach, is in preseason like the Red Bulls — it hasn’t played a competitive match yet — and has 14 new players for the Round of 16 match.
So, scouting the foes wasn’t up to the Red Bulls’ usual standards prior to meeting Atletico Pantoja at Felix Sanchez Stadium in Santiago, Dominican Republic Wednesday at 8 p.m.
“If the goal for us was to figure out exactly what to expect tomorrow night from the coach, from those players, [then] we haven’t done so well,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said in a media conference call from Santiago Tuesday afternoon. “It is challenging, 14 new players, 11 returning players, something like that. That’s what we think. New coach, new staff, who have been here before.”
Lenin Jose Bastidas Bello has returned to coach the club, having led Atletico to a domestic title a few years ago.
But Armas felt more than comfortable entering the match.
“Listen, what we do know is what the game will look like,” he said. “We know what these Champion League games look like. We know what the away legs look like, we know what the first legs of these competitions look like. We know some of the individual qualities of the players. We have a high comfort level with that. We know how the coach at his previous club played, style of play and things he emphasizes.
Armas added that performance analyst Victor Bertini and his staff had “put together a great scouting report on the oppostiion, so the things that we can control there, we’ve done a fine job.”
The second-year coach said he felt confident entering the match.
“I feel great,” Armas said. “The guys and the staff and the people at our club has given me energy. I feel good. The progress has been positive. We’ve addressed the different areas where we would like to address. It’s only the beginning. This team overall, we’ve gotten healthy, mostly in game fitness. We’ve got on the same page in many ways. We’ve been in some good games. We’ve gotten lots of guys minutes. As a team, we’ve taken steps forward.”
The Red Bulls hope to take another step forward Wednesday night.