After nearly two weeks in Orlando, FL, the Red Bulls wrapped up their first preseason trip of the year today when they returned to the New York/New Jersey area. On Thursday evening, Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke hosted a media conference call where he voiced that he was fairly pleased with where the team is at in this stage of the preseason.
“We had objectives, things we wanted to work on, we realized these guys have been off for a while and they did a good job with coming in in somewhat of good shape for a good starting point and we were able to jump right into it compared to last year and work on some different things,” Petke said. “I think that overall, it’s progressing nicely.”
Petke had praise for a number of the guest players who were in camp, including the Red Bulls’ two 2014 MLS SuperDraft second round picks Chris Duvall and Eric Stevenson, as well as Academy Under-18 standouts Arun Basuljevic and Chris Lema.
“I think specifically Arun and Mr. Lema from our academy showed us something that we partially already knew and also partially that surprised us, but those two I think are going to benefit from a good year of college before we move on,” Petke said. Both players signed NCAA National Letters of Intent to Georgetown University.
Others who are looking to make the roster include former New England Revolution defender Tyler Polak and Ecuadorian defender Miguel Ibarra. Petke indicated on the call that the club was likely parting ways with Ibarra due to the team’s existing depth at right back with Kosuke Kimura and Richard Eckersley. However, Petke also acknowledged that the left-footed Polak will likely return for the next stage of camp.
“(Tyler) is somebody who I remember back to the combine last year, being impressed with him and he’s done some good things,” Petke said. “Has he done enough with us to jump on him right now and sign him to contract? No, but he’s done enough that we want him to come back to camp … and continue to take a look at him.”
“That’s where we’re at with those guys,” Petke continued. “I touched on Chris Duvall and (Eric) Stevenson, who are progressing nicely, but in no way, shape, or form has anybody guaranteed a contract at this point. But, the players that we’re bringing back are doing enough of the right things to continue to have a look at them."
Regarding current roster players, the team returned nearly all of its squad from last year’s Supporters’ Shield-winning season. However, one player that Petke reserved praise for was former FC Barcelona B centerback Armando, who signed with New York in January. While Petke cautioned that Armando has been training with the team for only one week, initial signs of the defender’s potential contributions are promising.
“He’s fit in very nicely, guys have accepted him and he’s adapted well to our environment and he’s a hard player and we’re very happy to have him in right now,” Petke said. “It looks like that if he does continue to show for the duration of his contract what he’s shown so far in his short time, it is going to be a very good experience for him in MLS and for us as well.”
The Red Bulls will have their first preseason match against a MLS opponent when they take on the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 6:00 PM at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL.