Chris Armas is encouraged by the freshest faces on the New York Red Bulls’ preseason roster. And now, those players will get their first exam when the club plays their first scrimmage against Atlanta United at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Friday morning.
Those seven players, Armas said, have been taken out of their comfort zone by design. They’ve been put through rigorous double sessions to get inundated quickly into the club’s distinct style and their speed of play. There’s also been video sessions and multiple meetings.
Now they’ll get their first taste of Major League Soccer competition in the club’s first of four scheduled preseason friendlies.
“I would say that we want to keep building the fitness that the real game present so now on a big pitch, can guys get that workload in, can guys really now put together the work week and test themselves in our pressing and counter pressing,” Armas said in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon. “That’s been the objective this week. We’ve really worked hard as a team and individually understanding roles in that department.”
In a scrimmage that will be split into three 30-minute periods, Armas said everyone on his roster will get a chance to play against the Five Stripes and no one will feature for more than 45 minutes.
“We love the questions that the big field presents,” Armas said. “The small-sided games, the little rondos, the one-touch, two-touch, it solves most of the problems because everything’s right there and its fairly easy solutions a lot of times. You just have to keep up with the speed of things.”
Armas has been impressed with the seven players selected, but not yet signed, by the club in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. Particularly Armas said he’s been “really encouraged,” by Patrick Seagrist, selected No. 10 overall out of Marquette University. The club traded up with the Chicago Fire to select him.
The 21-year-old left back is “aggressive by nature, fearless by nature,” according to Armas, who also was impressed by Seagrist’s personality during a pre-draft interview.
“He operates with a lot of courage and self belief,” he said. “He’s got a lot of starting points as a purely left-footed left defender. He’s got an engine to get forward. So he’s a really interesting player coming in, and he’s impressive. He’s impressed in the first stretch of camp here. We’re encouraged.”
Stavros Zarokostas, the No. 62 overall selection out of Rhode Island and Nico Petridis, picked No. 93 out of St. John’s, are listed as midfielders, but Armas said both are operating as forwards who have “enjoying the hunting, the pressing, the excitement to win balls out of our pressing.”
According to Armas, Deri Corfe “is an interesting player,” because he an intelligent player who has the combination of height and a pair of good feet. He was taken No. 41 overall out of Wright State University.
Cherif Dieye, selected No. 15 overall out of Louisville, has scored multiple goals in the first week of training camp and is “really shifty and crafty on the ball,” Armas said.
Armas said Red Bulls’ goalkeeping coach Preston Burpo has been extremely happy with 6-foot-5 Wallis Lapsley, the No. 36 overall pick from UC Davis, who has good size and feet and “lots of personality” for an “above average shot stopper.”
Because of his ability to be quick and technical, Barry Sharifi, picked No. 67 overall out of Loyola, has been utilized as a No. 6 in the first portion of camp. He’s had the chance to impress in that position with Cristian Casseres Jr. away with Venezuela in CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying.
In addition, Aaron Long is not with the team, although he’s training on the same field in Bradenton with the US men’s national team that the Red Bulls will face Atlanta on, and Kemar Lawrence has an excused absence from the early portion of camp to attend to a personal matter and is scheduled to join the team Jan. 27.
There’s been a lot of work, on the field and in the classroom, in the first few days of preseason camp. On Friday morning, it’s time for this group’s first true test.
“On a big field, it’s always the beauty of the questions that the game will present to you, and then to see how can we solve those problems,” Armas said. “We’re really looking forward to that match tomorrow. We have a certain idea in mind of what success will look like.”