If the New York Red Bulls are hoping to finally lift that elusive first MLS Cup in their 25th season, head coach Chris Armas is not saying so publicly.
Armas held a conference call late on Thursday afternoon to discuss how the Red Bulls are progressing through their preseason preparations, and at one point was asked about his expectations for the upcoming campaign. Armas responded by saying that is not where his focus lies, and that he is instead working on trying to field the best team that he can in 2020.
“On the outside, there’s going to be some expectations,” said Armas. “I’m not sure what the expectations were last year. We have guys that are coming back now with different experience and more experience: Aaron Long, we see a much clearer Tim Parker, getting Josh Sims back here, Danny Royer, (Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra). Better versions of each guy.
“And I’ll tell you this: I’m not thinking of the playoffs, I’m not thinking of MLS Cup, and no one is talking about that. My expectation and the demand around here is excellence. Every day what we do as a staff and players, we’re talking about the process, we’re talking about one percent better, and then you guys can make expectations and predictions.”
Heading into his third season in charge of the Red Bulls, Armas will be looking to improve on a middling 2019 campaign. The Red Bulls finished as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference last year, compiling a 14-14-6 record before getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Union.
The Red Bulls head into 2020 with much of the same roster and starting lineup from last season, boasting players like Long, Kaku, Brian White, and Sean Davis. Some new incorporations were added to the squad this winter, including fullback Mandela Egbo and goalkeeper David Jensen, to try and strengthen the team.
“We want to win here, but we want to above all be a real team that’s together,” said Armas. “That sounds nice, but I’ll tell you what: A lot of teams fall short of that because that’s not easy. It’s not easy when things get hard. It’s not easy when there’s ups and down.
“As I said, I’m confident that you’ll see a team that’s more together than we’ve seen around here and we’ve made some moves in this offseason that will help that happen, Again, I’m not making any predictions. Again, what the fans, what the supporters, what they can expect to see is a New York Red Bull team that plays with intensity, that has a style of play that is strong, and a group that is committed to each other and the process every day.”
The Red Bulls will play their first official match of the year at home on March 1 against FC Cincinnati.