The New York Red Bulls are quickly closing in on their first competitive match of the season and the players are ramping up quickly toward full match fitness.
"We finished last camp at 60 minutes for some guys, so if we can start pushing those minutes to 75 and closer to 90, I think that’s a goal of ours," Head Coach Chris Armas said.
The season kicks off for the Red Bulls on February 20 against Atletico Pantoja in Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16.
"I think getting Aaron Long back in the group is going to be a big part of it, and then piecing other players in there now that really close to full fitness and form," Armas said.
Long, away with United States National Team, where he started and captained the side in two clean sheet victories, returns to the Red Bulls as they head to Arizona for their final preseason stint.
Florian Valot, Vincent Bezecourt, Kemar Lawrence and Kyle Duncan are all working back from injury and looking to get into the mix for the first match on February 20.
"You start getting your backline intact, and you start getting other attacking pieces intact, and now that’s a big part of our goal in Arizona," Armas said.
Heading into the final stretch, Armas said he's keeping all the cards on the table as to who may start and play against Pantoja.
"There’re different options that I feel like we really do have options, [Michael Amir Murillo] is looking great at right back, but Duncan gives you something as well," Armas said. "Hard to say, I’m not predicting who might get those minutes and opportunity in those games because we have a lot of good options."
The Red Bulls return to Red Bull Arena for Leg 2 of the Champions League matchup on February 27 before kicking off their MLS campaign on March 2 against Columbus Crew SC.
Ryan Meara, who recently underwent surgery on his knee, is already ahead of schedule and closing in on returning to the pitch.
"We’re on the mend. We’re there, we’ve got guys in training, guys like Aaron recovering from a long preseason with the National team," Armas said. "Essentially, we feel really, really close to full strength."