HARRISON, N.J. (February 13, 2017) – With the first leg of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals approaching on Feb. 22, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch acknowledged the match at Red Bull Arena as one of the club’s biggest matches of the season.
“For us being in this Champions League tournament, it means that we have a four-week window, which is incredible how short amount of time that is to try to prepare for one of our biggest matches, if not our biggest match, of the entire season,” Marsch said. “It’s tested us in a lot of different ways, but I think in some ways its good because its put a real urgency into what we’ve done every day.”
Following the Red Bulls’ 3-1 win over FC Tucson on Saturday, Marsch happily noted the improved fitness of his players, some of whom played more minutes than initially planned.
“Some guys played more minutes than we had planned on because they were fitter than we thought,” Marsch said. “We know that we need to stockpile minutes to get ready for the 22nd, so I thought we achieved things from a physical standpoint in a big way and overall tactically.”
Justin Bilyeu, who broke his hand early last week, played 65 minutes. The Red Bulls manager noted that the club will be, “counting on him come Champions League time,” and mentioned it was, “good for him to get some minutes and play well.”
Finally, with Bradley Wright-Phillips, Sacha Kljestan, Damien Perrinelle and Luis Robles re-joining the team, Marsch highlighted the importance of getting his veterans back with the squad ahead of the big game against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
“There were a lot of little plays in there where on a day where we’re a little sharper we could’ve scored quite a few more goals,” Marsch said. “That’s what preseason’s about, trying to get them a little bit fitter, a little bit sharper, a little bit cleaner so that now when the bigger games come that they’re ready to go.
“We have 11 days. We’re under a little bit of a time crunch, but we’ll be ready. We’ll put a lot into these next few days and then come the 22nd we’re ready to throw our best effort out.”