|photo by Matt Kremkau|
New York Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas isn't interested in what expectations are for his club in 2020. Instead, he's interested in making sure he gets the best out of young group of players eager to prove themselves to the league.
"On the outside there are going to be some expectations," said Armas during a media call. "We have guys coming back with different experience, with more experience. I'm not thinking of the playoffs or MLS Cup. My expectation and demand around here is excellence."
Armas is leading a group that is mostly unproven in key areas such as in the striker position. The team isn't expected to mirror the tactics of years prior and the third-year head coach knows that changes are necessary to continue to deliver the kind of soccer that Red Bulls have made their fans accustomed to seeing.
"We want to win here but above all we want to be a real team that is together. That sounds nice but a lot of teams fall short of that."
New York in general has fallen short of expectations since 2015. Despite winning two Supporter's Shields they have been unable to reach MLS Cup and remain searching for their first elusive championship. Now the team enters a new era. Gone is the old guard of Luis Robles, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Kemar Lawrence. In their place are young, potentially hungry, unproven players that hope to put their stamp on the league.
One of those unproven players is Mathias Jorgensen. The 19-year-old striker didn't see any time with the first team in 2019 but is expected to be play a major role in 2020. With the USL New York Red Bulls II team he scored 11 goals and grew into the speed of play as the year progressed. Thus far he has been featured in a two-striker system that may be the new look for the team in the coming season.
The team has toyed with a two-striker system in the past but always reverted back to their classic 4-2-3-1 formation. Bradley Wright-Phillips worked best as the lone striker but his departure has opened the door for more flexibility that Brian White, Tom Barlow and Jorgensen have to take advantage of.
"Coaching, winning games, developing players, that's my job," said Armas. "These players and this staff give me energy every day. They come with optimism, they come with fight. I've been around a long time. I know what it takes and I know what it looks like. I know what winning habits look like. I know how to coach it."
New York begin their season on March 1st against FC Cincinnati. Until then there will remain questions about the team and their insistence on choosing their youth over venturing out into the transfer market like so many other teams. At the moment there is no right or wrong answer. Armas claims to believe in this direction and it is one that the team will have to display to win back a skeptical fan base.