For the past two weeks the New York Red Bulls have jogged and sprinted, organized passing, shooting and keep-away drills, and played 8v8 and 11v11 games. It's been a repetition game, one that started with general fitness and worked its way up to end-to-end competition. Now it’s time to put it all together for the first time, when the team plays the Columbus Crew Friday morning on the pitch at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL.
It has, without a doubt, been an intense camp for the Red Bulls both on and off the field. In addition to a number of two-a-day sessions and individual workouts in the gym, the Red Bulls also bulked up their coaching staff when they named Mike Petke, formerly an assistant, to the head coaching spot, and added former Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser as an assistant.
Petke spoke to the media Thursday afternoon about what he hopes to achieve during the team’s first preseason match.
“Obviously it’s the first leg of the preseason right now, so first and foremost for tomorrow is a fitness thing,” said Petke. “We want to get these guys some game-related fitness. As always we want to win everything that we do.”
On the players’ side, newcomers continue to familiarize themselves with teammates, learning their tendencies on the field and adapting it to the individual’s game. Glimpses of Juninho's free kicks had players in awe, while Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry's leadership showed in the form of extra mini sessions with trialists, where lessons ranged from practicing crosses, one-timing shots into the netting, and stacking the box for corner kicks.
One of those newcomers, defender Kosuke Kimura, said the players were ready, even more so following the 11v11 that took place in training earlier this week.
“At this level, you need to keep playing the game,” he said. “That’s all you have to do. And tomorrow, first game of the preseason, it’ll be good for everybody to get everything going again.”
Odds are you won’t be seeing players logging anything close to 90 minutes. In all likelihood, players will switch out at the half and sub in throughout the match in an effort for everyone to get a taste of the action. It’s not out of the ordinary for preseason, and something that will ultimately help gauge how to best utilize the players in future preseason scenarios.
Long-term, that will of course change as the team edges closer to the Desert Diamond Cup preseason meetings in Arizona from Feb. 12 – 24, and of course the Mar. 3 season opener in Portland. Until then, Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty says it’s about getting the pieces to fit and work together.
“At the end of the day it’s just kind of about getting the base for how we want to play and obviously try and implement the things that we’ve been working on in training, in the game,” he said. “It’s competitive. Guys are fighting for positions, guys are fighting to make the team; it’ll be good.”