Florian Valot scored the Red Bulls’ lone goal. (Photo courtesy of MLS)

BRADENTON, Fla. – The Red Bulls kicked off their pre-season schedule Friday with a 2-1 loss to Atlanta United at IMG Academy.

Josef Martinez and Ezequiel Barco tallied for the winners, while Florian Valot scored New York’s lone goal.

The game was played in three segments of 30 minutes each as the Red Bulls used 27 players.

“It was deliberate for a couple of reasons,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said. “The most important thing is that we’re still evaluating a lot of players. We want to give every guy the best chance to show what he has and keep it balanced. We think that made sense. It was deliberate, and I think it was the right decision.”

The Red Bulls had starters sprinkled in their first two lineups. They played a 4-4-2 with the Starting XI and then a 4-2-3-1 in the second and third XI’s.

“Yeah, we want to have more system of play flexibility,” Armas said. “We’re more than comfortable defending in a 4-4-2, we do that when we play a 4-2-3-1 with Kaku in there, we step him up as a second striker defensively, but when we have the ball often times it’s a 4-2-3-1 with a pure number 10. With Mathias Jørgensen, with Tom Barlow, with Brian White, it’s interesting when you have two nine’s on the field, because every time you can win the ball, which we’re good at, you can have two guys that can put real pressure on the back line. So not only defending in the 4-4-2 but attacking in the same structure. It’s been good to try and evolve and develop, and have some more weapons for the season.”

Since Atlanta will start its Concacaf Champions League journey last month, the MLS squad started training earlier than the Red Bulls.

“We picked this opponent for the reason that we wanted a good opponent,” Armas said. “Ideally it would have been our second or third game in preseason but when the options were presented, we wanted a good game. Especially knowing that in the first week a lot of the emphasis would be on defensive principles. It was a really good test, because Atlanta, they build out of the back. They’re really a team that values possession, they have quality attackers that would challenge our back line, and we got tested, but we created a number of transition moments going to goal. We score one and if we’re sharper, maybe four or five moments could come. Good opponent, good first match, good test early on.”

Overall, Armas liked what he saw.

“I feel good about the culmination of the work this week,” he said. “The week was built against the ball, we worked on a lot of pressing. Getting 11 guys on the same page was the challenge, when you’re a pressing team, can you go all at once? Can you sprint? Can you be together? That was really good today. We were hard to play against, we score a goal out of the pressing and counter-pressing, so we feel really good about that part of it.”

Lineups

New York starting XI (4-4-2): Ryan Meara – Rece Buckmaster, Sean Nealis, Tim Parker, Patrick Seagrist – Florian Valot, Sean Davis, Chris Lema, Daniel Royer – Brian White, Niko Petridis

Atlanta starting XI (4-2-3-1): Brad Guzan – Edgar Castillo, Fernando Meza, Miles Robinson, Franco Escobar – Eric Remedi, Mo Adams – Brooks Lennon, Ezequiel Barco, Gonzalo Martinez – Josef Martinez

New York 30th minute (4-2-3-1): Wallis Lapsley – Rece Buckmaster (John Tolkin), Sean Nealis (Amro Tarek), Tim Parker (Roy Boateng), Patrick Seagrist (Kyle Duncan) – Sean Davis (Kyle Zajec), Marc Rzatkowski – Cherif Dieye, Alex Muyl, Deri Corfe – Brian White (Tom Barlow)

(Lineups courtesy of MLS)