HANOVER, N.J. – There may be a new person in charge of the New York Red Bulls, but it is still the same game plan and still the same team, so says new head coach Chris Armas.
Jesse Marsch left the team officially on Friday, to reportedly pursue a coaching opportunity in Europe. On Friday during a press conference to introduce Armas, sporting director Denis Hamlett underscored that despite the departure of Marsch, nothing will change tactically for the team on the field. The only thing that will change, Hamlett quipped, is that the affable Armas is funnier than his predecessor.
“Look, I think it is important in terms of when we kind of identify players, we want to make sure that they fit into our system,” Hamlett continued. “And part of the process from the academy all the way up through our second team and the first team, to also educate the coaches to understand how we play, so prepare them for the next step because you never know in life when your chance is going to come."
The Red Bulls are known for their pressing and counter-pressing, a style that the organization’s other teams in Austria and Germany also play. A major selling point in hiring Armas is his own intricate understanding of this active style of play.
“In my position, I want to make sure that you plan the right way so if something like this [coaching change] happens, you’re ready," Hamlett explained. "You don’t have to look outside, you can look inside to make sure you have someone in place. Like I said, the most important is having someone who understands how we play and how we do things because that’s not going to change. And I think that is key and so that made the decision so much easier.”
Armas said that he’s been preparing for this role for a long time. The former LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire midfielder, six times an MLS All-Star and capped 66 times by the US national team, has been a head coach in college and been an assistant coach for several years in MLS. This, however, will be his biggest test.
Having been on the Red Bulls coaching staff since 2015 and as Marsch’s first assistant the past two years, Armas has certainly had a prominent role on this team. He runs the daily video session for the group, breaking down film and tactics. He also has filled in for Marsch when the team’s former head coach was away in Europe in pursuit of his UEFA license and when suspended by the league, running practices on his own and coaching the team during games.
On Friday morning during his first training session as head coach, it seemed as if nothing had changed under the watchful eyes of Armas. The team trotted out to the training pitch a few minutes behind schedule as they finished watching France’s 2-0 win over Uruguay in the World Cup. Everything felt the same, even as Marsch was not there.
Last year when Marsch was suspended, Armas led the Red Bulls to a win in the U.S. Open Cup over New York City FC, the team that ironically he’ll coach against on Sunday in the NY Derby (7 pm ET | FS1 - Full TV & Streaming Info). It is a big thrill for Armas, born and raised in the Bronx, to get his first chance as a head coach in MLS play against NYCFC at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s a great team we’re playing against. It’s a derby match, it’s New York, it’s the Bronx. It’s two teams that are fighting for the standings right there. There’s no better way,” Armas said. “We’re ready for it as a team. You can see it.”