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New York Red Bulls shift focus to CONCACAF Champions League

Jan 31, 2018; Bradenton, FL, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer (77) pushes the ball up the field in the first half against the New England Revolution at IMG Academy. (Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports)

As the New York Red Bulls entered the second phase of preseason, moving from Florida to Arizona, the team’s focus also shifted.

Now, concentration is on Honduran side C.D. Olimpia, the Red Bulls’ opponent in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16.

“Two weeks to prepare, two matches basically, and we’ve got to have our group ready to go,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “It’s not easy with these parameters, but whatever man, there’s no excuses. Olimpia will have eight games under its belt by the time they play us and we’ll have none.”

The Red Bulls will face Phoenix Rising FC of the United Soccer League in their second preseason match Saturday before taking on MLS opponents Sporting Kansas City, Houston and Portland at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson.

Then, their first meaningful game is against an Olimpia team unbeaten in its first six matches of the Honduran league Clausura after a third-place Apertura finish. Marsch said he and his staff have done their homework on a defensively stout Olimpia side that booked its Champions League spot by winning the 2017 CONCACAF League title.

“They’re a gifted technical group of players who run hard, play hard, compete — and any time you go down to Central America as an American or an MLS team, you’re going to get their absolute best,” Marsch said. “It’s what makes the tournament fun and challenging, and we have to make sure we understand exactly what it’s going to require.”

With the start of the two-legged series, which was moved two weeks ago from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to San José, Costa Rica, because of political unrest, training sessions need to be even sharper. Marsch said he’s seeing that in Tucson.

“Already from today it was a spirited group with a lot of energy and talent and excitement about having the level of training raised a bit,” Marsch said. “Now, it will be my job to try to tack it up a bit every day so that come two weeks we’re really ready.”

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