BRADENTON, Fla. - New Red Bulls assistant coach Chris Armas always had an itch to get back into the daily MLS grind. It just took a while for it to actually happen.
After a 12-year MLS playing career, constant trips with the national team and a single season as an assistant coach of the Chicago Fire, Armas made the decision to replant his roots back in New York at the end of 2008.
“The coming and going with professional soccer and the national team was a lot of traveling and not being around,” Armas told NewYorkRedBulls.com “I didn’t envision the first so many years of my kids’ lives creating that instability -- for my family it wouldn’t work. For me it was trying to find the next best thing where I could find meaning and that’s where I landed.”
Upon his return, Armas literally retraced the path that brought him to Major League Soccer. First he returned to his high school alma mater, St. Anthony’s in South Huntington, NY teaching physical education for a few years. In 2011, he took on the women’s head coaching job at Adelphi University, the school where he was named a First Team All-American in 1993.
While he stayed involved in MLS by serving on the league’s Disciplinary Committee, Armas says he always had a desire to return on a more full-time basis.
“This world was always in the back of my mind and heart and I never really reached out to push,” he said.
Eventually, the right opportunity came along when Marsch, who served as his central midfield partner for many successful years with the Chicago Fire, reached out shortly after being named new Red Bulls head coach last month.
“I received a phone call from Jesse a few weeks back and there had just been some communication over the past few years and this opportunity with him just seemed right. It was a communication just in general, I congratulated him on the job but it was a step forward, offering me a role on the staff.
“Some steps were taken, the rest is history and here I am.”
Having played over 200 competitive games together in midfield for the Fire, Marsch spoke highly of the relationship he and Armas developed in their playing days.
“With the Fire we had so many good days on the field. I know that we really enjoyed playing for each other and the one thing we built into who we became was just that we always had each other’s back -- off each other’s shoulder on and off the field. I think it led to a successful partnership and one that’s been a sort of a lifelong friendship as well.”
But beyond the support he’ll bring to the technical staff this season, Marsch is most high on the knowledge he can drop on his new side.
“Chris is literally one of the best guys in the game,” said the Red Bulls’ head coach. “Anybody that’s been around him knows that he’s a genuine guy who cares about the right things and people. He has an array of soccer experiences that I think can only add to the sophistication of what we’re doing here every day. He’ll bring a lot on a lot of different levels.”
Teaching in the high pressure style Marsch is implementing with the Red Bulls should come naturally for Armas, because as he says, it’s the type of player he was.
“I understand it, I know it very well,” Armas said. “If it’s a philosophy of making it hard for opponents and taking away their time and space, it’s what I did when I played. Being able to pass it on, understand and embrace it, I get it.
“It requires a lot of the physical part of the game but the mental part of the game to stay tuned to plays. I do understand it. It’s a fun way to play and you can see it’s taking shape. On day one I can see it.”