New York Red Bulls Begin 2017 Pre-season With a Victory

HARRISON, NJ - NOVEMBER 06: New York Red Bulls midfielder Gonzalo Veron (30) during leg 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal on November 06, 2016 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison NJ, between the New York Red Bulls and the Montreal Impact. The Montreal Impact defeat the New York Red Bulls 2-1. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Red Bulls and head coach Jesse Marsch began their 2017 pre-season with a 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers in Arizona on Friday. In front of an energetic crowd and played on a chilly night, New York will be pleased with a positive start to the calendar year.

New York Red Bulls Begin 2017 Pre-season With a Victory

The Red Bulls’ clear focus is on hitting top form as soon as possible this year, with the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals against the Vancouver Whitecaps scheduled for February 22nd. The MLS regular season kicks off on March 5th at expansion side Atlanta United FC.

New York will now play matches against Real Salt Lake (1/31) and the New England Revolution (2/3), with a second pre-season Arizona trip featuring three more games in the Desert Diamond Cup.

Approach and Line-up

Both New York and Portland came into the match looking to find fitness and rhythm in the opening stages. The Red Bulls dominated possession and created early chances.

Left-back Kemar Lawrence sent a cross into the Portland penalty area, only to see the Timbers’ back-line put the ball into their own net. New York’s second goal was a penalty converted by Vincent Bezecourt.

An own-goal and a penalty being the difference is an excellent example of how the pre-season can see squads still finding their feet.

Sacha Kljestan, Luis Robles, Mike Grella and Bradley Wright-Phillips were all out of action, seeing Jesse Marsch utilize different formations occasionally. Trialist and former USMNT striker Robbie Findley saw Gonzalo Veron alongside him at forward, with the Argentine dropping back into midfield at different points.

Lawrence was a constant fixture moving forward into the attack from his defensive position. These moments lead to New York relying on a three-man defensive line from time to time.

Portland on the Counter

Like many teams have against the Red Bulls over the past two years, Portland were content to sit back and give New York the majority of possession. Waiting for the right time to strike on the counter, Diego Valeri and Darren Mattocks aimed to make the most of open space in the attacking third.

The Timbers midfield looked to play the ball long, and almost caught New York on several occasions. The forward movements were denied by quick reactions from Red Bull defenders and offside calls from the officials.

Aurelien Collin and Aaron Long looked comfortable in central defense. Positioning and vision were essential in keeping up with the pace of Mattocks.

On a different night, the philosophy may have brought better results and may not have seen as much difficulty.

Strong crowd

An announced crowd of 1,451 in Tucson provided an excellent atmosphere and the teams certainly responded accordingly. Strong effort was seen in fast play and aggressive tackles throughout the night.

With more matches to follow over the next few weeks, the New York Red Bulls will want to see players continue to play well and develop towards a successful 2017 campaign.

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