HANOVER, N.J. — One is the head coach, the other a starting midfielder and both have local ties to the club they led to the Eastern Conference championship series.
Armas, who was born in the Bronx and grew up on Long Island, took over for Jesse Marsch as head coach midway through the season.
While it seemed a natural transition after being Marsch’s assistant coach for three years, Armas said it was a tricky one.
“I was a secondary voice, maybe a good assistant coach,” he said after training Tuesday. “If I’m good at that, then I’m really good at being a secondary presence and voice. As seamless as I tried to make it, there was a lot of work to do.”
Armas said he always wanted to be part of the MLS original, first as a player when he graduated from Adelphi University. It just took a lot longer than he expected.
“I wanted to get drafted by the MetroStars. It didn’t work out that way, I got drafted by the furthest team possible — the LA Galaxy,” Armas said. “Always thought maybe one day I can coach the team in my backyard so here we are. It’s a dream come true in many ways. I’m really proud.”
Davis, from nearby Long Branch, N.J., was part of the vaunted Red Bulls academy and became the ninth homegrown player signed by the club on Dec. 11, 2014. After working his way up the organization’s ladder, the 25-year-old is now an integral part of the first team. He started 30 of the 32 games he’s appeared in this year, racking up a career-high eight assists and partnering with Tyler Adams as one of MLS’ top defensive midfield tandems.
“When I look at it from my career’s standpoint, it’s really a great opportunity,” Davis said. “My first couple of years I was on the bench and I took that time to learn as much as possible from the veterans ahead of me. They did a great job of helping me along the way and now I just feel like I have a lot of experience under my belt and it’s my time to help lead the team in any way possible. So, I feel a sense of responsibility and I’m just really for how well the team has done up to this point.”
Of course, playing in his backyard also means a huge support staff every time he’s on the field at Red Bull Arena.
“My favorite part about playing for the team, is that [my family is] at every single game and we share all these moments together,” Davis aid. “I couldn’t ask for anything more than that and I try not to take it for granted. Luckily, the ticket sales reps at Red Bulls are great because they help my parents along the way, they let them know when they need to purchase the tickets. They’re all reserved for the final and hopefully we get there. They’ve just been so supportive throughout my whole life. I’m just happy we can share these moments together.”