Set to face two games in four days, the New York Red Bulls are still trying to figure out how to approach them.
After a bye week, the Red Bulls are set to return to MLS action when they host the struggling Montreal Impact on Saturday night (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE). That Eastern Conference showdown will see New York try to solidify their playoff positioning, but it also marks the beginning of a busy few days that will see Salvadoran club FAS pay a visit to Red Bull Arena on Tuesday (8 pm ET, FOX Sports 1) in the Red Bulls' first appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League since they were eliminated in the qualifying round in 2009-10.
The quick turnaround has Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke carefully weighing how he wants to tackle the challenging schedule. Some MLS coaches have opted to field two completely different lineups in similar situations in years past, while others have preferred to rotate only a few spots in the lineup. Petke says he has not yet cemented his plans.
“We have a bunch of scenarios that we are discussing,” said Petke in a conference call on Tuesday. “It could be any one of those things, plus about three [other] scenarios. We’re obviously taking Champions League very seriously. The scheduling part about it is not great, but you have to deal with that and you have to figure out what the best route to go is. Montreal is a huge game, not just because it’s a MLS game, but because it’s also a conference game. Those are huge. We’re going to continue to discuss today, and we’ll see how guys recover from [the] Montreal game and take it from there.”
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It helps that New York are coming off a very fortunately-timed bye week. Petke allowed his players to capitalize on the break in action by giving them a three-day weekend to recharge their batteries, and that might prove useful as a busy stretch looms.
“There’s a lot of games coming up. That’s why it’s important that everyone is mentally and physically ready and able to go,” said Petke. “I plan on using as many people as we can, to be honest with you. Obviously, it’s early in the week now, so we’ve been talking about it but have not finalized anything. But we’re looking at a number of different scenarios.
“For me, I’m very excited to be in the Champions League. I think it’s a very important and great platform for us. However, if I had to put the two competitions next to each other, I wouldn’t put one above the other. But I can tell you that making the playoffs in MLS is extremely important, not only to me and the players, but to the organization. It’s going to be an interesting dynamic to put this together and figure out who’s going to play when.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.