Roster rotation isn’t new for the New York Red Bulls. Whether it’s a congested schedule, like the five games in 15-day stretch they are currently on, or if it was prioritizing Concacaf Champions League matches early in the MLS regular season, the Red Bulls depth has been tested and, by in large, those players passed with flying colors.
Take the regular season home opener as an example. With the second leg of a Champions League quarterfinal vs. Club Tijuana on the horizon, the Red Bulls fielded a heavily rotated squad to take on the Portland Timbers.
There was Fidel Escobar partnering with Aurelien Collin in central defense with Kyle Duncan and Connor Lade as fullbacks. Vincent Bezecourt was in central midfield and then-17-year-old Ben Mines made his MLS debut in the starting XI on the wing.
Like his predecessor Jesse Marsch, Chris Armas isn’t one to reveal his starting XI before his team sheet is handed in on game day. But with Wednesday’s match against the Houston Dynamo sandwiched between six-point Eastern Conference matches, it’s a safe bet there will be more squad rotation at Red Bull Arena.
“We’re going to have some fresh legs on the field and we’re going to have some guys who are going to run it back again,” Armas told reporters after training Tuesday. “We’re going after another three points.”
What might the Red Bulls look like? There’s a chance that Tim Parker and/or Aaron Long are rested ahead of the match at Montreal Saturday night, which could give Escobar his first minutes since three consecutive starts to open the season.
“Fidel is calm. He has a calmness about him that you don’t really find too often in center backs,” Parker said of Escobar, the 23-year-old Panamanian international. “But he’s smart so he knows how to use it very well.”
Armas on Tuesday continued to rave about the performance Derrick Etienne put in against D.C. United on Sunday night and it’s possible he shares the 90 minutes with Alex Muyl, while Andi Ivan, who has come off the substitute’s bench in each of the last four games, could be in line for his first start.
“I think last game if you say do the Red Bulls have depth? Derrick Etienne was great,” Armas said. “Alex Muyl, he’s had a lot of good games, but has he had a better 25 minutes? He shows reliability, understanding the game. You love when your substitutes can come in, make a difference and be better.”
While Wright-Phillips has been a mainstay up front as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Brian White, who was signed from Red Bulls II on Aug. 4 and made his MLS debut in eight minutes off the bench in a 2-2 draw at Vancouver on Aug. 18, might earn the nod as forward.
“Brian White, he’s a team guy. He’s a guy that’s going to work and he’s going to do whatever it takes on the day to get three points,” midfielder Sean Davis said. “He’s going to do the job at hand, he’s going to work hard, he’s going to be a nuisance for that back line. Going forward, he’s athletic, he can find himself in behind and hopefully find a few goals.”