New York Red Bulls getting up to SCCL speed

New York Red Bulls (pictured) go through a drill at preseason camp in Tucson, Arizona, on February 2, 2017. (Photo courtesy of New York Red Bulls)

TUCSON, Arizona – The New York Red Bulls are trying to make up for some lost time as they prepare for their 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal opener later this month.

Two key players recently joined the team’s preseason camp at the Kino Sports Complex, while a third is still away.

Striker Bradley Wright-Phillips was in New Jersey for the birth of his child and goalkeeper Luis Robles was away for a month with the United States national team. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who was also in the U.S. camp is still away, awaiting his child’s birth.

“We know right now there is no time to waste,” head coach Jesse Marsch said.

The Red Bulls host the Vancouver Whitecaps in the SCCL knockout stage opener on February 22, before playing at BC Place in the second leg on March 2.

There have been very few changes to the roster, with only Cameroon under-20 international defender Hassan Ndam being added from outside the club’s reserve and youth structure. Captain and midfielder Dax McCarty was dealt to the Chicago Fire, creating a temporary void.

Familiarity has narrowed the learning curve.

“The energy and the work ethic has been great,” commented Marsch. “We’re going to have to crunch some things in pretty quickly and get guys up to speed.”

Robles, who played the first half of the United States 1-0 win over Jamaica Friday night, understood what lies ahead.

“Part of our challenge is that a lot of the starters from last year haven’t been involved (in the training camp),” he remarked. “The real challenge for us is to get guys on the field that are ready to play in two and half weeks, not only because it’s a challenge, but it’s an important game for us.”

The Red Bulls will meet Sacramento Republic FC in a friendly on Friday, before facing archrival New York City FC in the opening game of the Desert Diamond Cup here February 15.

“The big New York City match, in preseason, which should be interesting,” Marsch finished. “I think it’ll be a good game and it will be our last, final warmup before our big CCL match.”