It’s not just pundits and observers who are high on the Columbus Crew’s potential in 2020.
New York Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas, ahead of facing their Group E opponents Thursday (10:30 pm ET | FS1, TUDN; TSN in Canada) at the MLS is Back Tournament, showered praise on the Crew's rebuild.
“They’re coming off a season where they come in hungry, they clearly upgraded their roster, they’ve added some big pieces,” Armas said. “I don’t see them as a dark horse, I see them as one of the top teams. They have an identity, they can use the ball and spread the field.”
Armas singled out the addition of Darlington Nagbe, who was acquired via trade last offseason from Atlanta United. He made the Team of the Week presented by Audi from Round 1 alongside teammates Lucas Zelarayan and Gyasi Zardes, while goalkeeper Eloy Room and winger Luis Diaz are among the fresh faces from last summer.
Despite all the challenges, RBNY forward Daniel Royer knows what to expect when facing Columbus. It helps that these two sides played in preseason, though that 1-1 draw occurred nearly five months ago.
“Columbus is a team that values the ball,” Royer said. “They try to spread the field, they have a really different style to our style. We have two more days until we play against them, we will do more video, we will analyze them even better. We know the team, but obviously they’ve changed a lot.”
While the Red Bulls have a healthy respect for Columbus, they’re also beaming with self-belief. They’re coming off a 1-0 win over Atlanta courtesy of a Florian Valot goal, and could move atop Group E with a win.
David Jensen, the club’s new goalkeeper who arrived in January from Eredivisie club FC Utrecht, likes his team’s long-term chances. New York’s won three Supporters' Shield in club history (as recently as 2018), though never raised a tournament-style trophy.
“I think we have a good chance of going through,” Jensen said. “If we go to the final or not, I don’t know about that, we hope so and we have a belief that we can do it. It’s too soon to tell but we will definitely do our best.”
To stay on path, RBNY will have to navigate the 10:30 pm ET kickoff time. MLS clubs are used to time-zone changes and long flights, but playing into the wee hours of the morning is another proposition. Royer said they held an intrasquad scrimmage at 10:30 before flying to Orlando, all to prepare for the Columbus match.
“I think nobody really likes that [because] we’re hanging around in a hotel thinking about the game,” Royer said. “But that’s just how it is. I think it’s still better than playing in the morning cause when the sun is out it’s really hot."