The New York Red Bulls opened the second stage of their preseason with a resounding 5-1 win over Phoenix Rising as part of the Mobile Mini Sun Cup in Tucson Sunday afternoon.
Bradley Wright-Phillips struck for a hat trick and set up goals by Alex Muyl and Kaku in the first of five preseason matches in Arizona. The Red Bulls depart for the Dominican Republic for the opening leg of the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 clash against Atlético Pantoja on Feb. 20.
“With the Champions League game approaching, I think we had to look more like ourselves,” Wright-Phillips said. “There were a few positives in the first preseason camp, but we didn’t really look like ourselves throughout the 90 minutes. Today, it was a lot better.”
The Red Bulls rolled out closed to a first-choice starting XI Sunday against the USL Championship side with Connor Lade, Aaron Long, Tim Parker and Michael Murillo playing in front of Luis Robles, Marc Rzatkowski and Sean Davis in center midfield behind Kaku and Danny Royer and Muyl playing on the wings. Wright-Phillips stood as the lone striker.
“In addition to the goal of trying to get minutes and sharpness with the minutes and fitness, it was good to see the front four linking up on the same page, combining, Kaku in the middle of it all making guys around him better,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “There was positionally discipline to stay where they needed to stay in different moments. It was good to see.”
The Red Bulls completely changed out their XI between the 60 and 75 minutes. Evan Louro took over in net. Kemar Lawrence, Amro Tarek, Sean Nealis and Kyle Duncan lined up defensively. Rece Buckmaster and Omir Fernandez entered in the center of the midfield, and Florian Valot, Andres Ivan, Ben Mines and Brian White became the attacking four.
The Red Bulls’ first team will likely only play again on Thursday against Real Salt Lake before turning their focus on CCL preparations. They will leave for the Dominican Republic on Feb. 18.
“Some of the emphasis for us was to take it as serious as possible and try to have a result-oriented game,” Muyl said. “I think in preseason, a lot it’s about the process, but with us having important games coming up, we had to focus and tune in and try and treat it like the real thing. We did and luckily we were able to get a good result today.”