Almost as quickly as they returned home, the New York Red Bulls are ready to hit the road again. Friday afternoon's training session marked the team's last day in Hanover before a second trip to Florida.
- TICKETS: Red Bulls Home Opener vs. Toronto FC, Sunday March 6
The club will leave on Monday for a two-week stay before returning for the final tune-up sessions ahead of first kick on March 6 at Red Bull Arena. Head coach Jesse Marsch met with the media after training to discuss the team's progress to date.
It's hardly a secret that Marsch and his staff have put a premium on fitness while back in Hanover. The trend continued on Friday as the group is looking to get closer to match ready with first kick drawing ever closer.
"We think it's important to get the group going a little bit physically in the first couple of weeks, but it's also an important time to evaluate. If you wind up spending a lot of time in the beginning with fitness, then it gets hard to evaluate until later in the process. We feel like getting a base of fitness with them and playing a little bit is good for the first two weeks. Now when we go back down to Orlando, they'll be sharp, fit and ready to make a strong push to be ready for the season."
Different players, however, are at different stages as preseason rolls on. Marsch has accounted for these differences by segmenting the team into various groups, based on their current physical fitness.
"We divide them into groups because genetically certain guys are capable doing those types of runs. The most important thing is that each guy gets tested at his own capacity."
While the veterans have the benefit of a year of experience with the current coaching staff and their high expectations, the new crop have had to learn on the fly, but seem to be doing so quite well. A number of homegrown players as well as the team's two SuperDraft signings have made their mark on preseason as they look to find a spot with either the first team, or perhaps New York Red Bulls II with John Wolyniec at the helm.
"They've all done really well. We'll figure out how they fit into different categories, whether it's the first team or the USL team. Both draft picks, Justin Bilyeu and Zach Carroll, have done well; we're pleased with both of them. Brandon Allen started scoring more goals, so that's been good to see. I'd even throw Tyler Adams into that category even though he's been around us for a a while. And Alex Muyl--once we get back down to Orlando--will be able to start training so that'll be good to get him going."
Baah Continues to Adjust
The team's newest signing, Gideon Baah, is becoming more and more comfortable within the group as the training sessions go by. Ahead of his first trip down to Orlando, Marsch assessed where the Ghanaian stands.
"Finland mirrors our season. He's been training for about four weeks with HJK, so it's just a matter of getting game fitness. He's not far off. He's been thrown into this week, which isn't the easiest, but the first three days have been great."
The change in climate will also give Baah--and the rest of the squad--a chance to get a proper run of games to truly gauge where they stand.
"The weather will be nice down there. It'll be good to get out of the cold and into some playing weather so that we can keep pushing."
Marsch revealed that defender Cheikh Mbaye will join the team in Orlando as his trial continues. The future of former Red Bull Kenny Cooper still remains unclear as the team has not decided if he will make a second trip to Florida. Meanwhile, the team announced on Friday that they have parted ways with defender Shawn McLaws. The Oklahoma native was a 2015 SuperDraft pick and featured mainly with New York Red Bulls II throughout 2015.