Chris Armas called the New York Red Bulls home for six years, split as an assistant coach under Jesse Marsch and then head coach when his predecessor left for Europe.
Now, for the first time since the club parted ways with him last fall, Armas is returning to Red Bull Arena.
The 48-year-old was appointed head coach by Toronto FC this past winter and will take his squad to face RBNY on Saturday (1 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). However, he's not as focused on his old employer as he is on other priorities.
“Heading back home, first and foremost, I get to see my wife and children," Armas told media during a virtual press conference Thursday. "I haven’t seen my children in three months or so, my wife came to Canada for a short stretch. That’s at the top of the list. The second thing is the club I was at for six years, but honestly, it’s about going there and getting our season going.”
Armas led RBNY to the Supporters’ Shield title in 2018, his first season as head coach, taking over after Marsch left that July upon becoming an assistant coach at Bundesliga side RB Leipzig. Armas went 29W-21L-11T in league play, helping the Red Bulls reach the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs both years in charge. After his departure, Bradley Carnell took over an interim basis and helped the club make its 11th straight playoff appearance.
Armas is intimately familiar with RBNY's tactical ethos, which has continued and accelerated under his successor, Gerhard Struber.
“They’ve played some different systems in their three games, but what doesn’t change is the philosophy," Armas said. "They have a very strong identity of playing with intensity and pressure. … It becomes so much about us understanding that type of game. Second balls become important, our pressing becomes important with how they control spaces. Understanding and executing is the challenge for us.”
Armas won't be able to select his strongest XI against the Red Bulls, as he continues to wait for a number of key players to return from injury. It's getting closer, though.
Center forward Jozy Altidore missed Tuesday's Concacaf Champions League loss to Cruz Azul with a minor ailment and should be fine, ditto for midfielder Jonathan Osorio after he experienced some tightness. Both players have missed time already this year, and forward Ayo Akinola recently returned from injury. Attacking midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo, the reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP, has yet to make his season debut.
“He was out there today, moving and running to get himself close," Armas said of Pozuelo. "He’s getting close, he’s not there yet. We all want him back – yesterday.”
Yeferson Soteldo, TFC's newest Designated Player, is poised to make his debut after participating in his first training session on Thursday. The 23-year-old Venezuelan international arrives with big expectations in the final third, last competing for Brazilian Serie A side Santos. Much intrigue will surround Soteldo's first minutes, should he indeed get them at Red Bull Arena.
“He trained well, his body feels good and we have to make sure we use him the right way," Armas said. "There’s some discussions. We’re excited he’s an option.”