On Friday afternoon, the media had a chance to talk with New York Red Bulls Head Coach Chris Armas for the first time this off season. A multitude of questions and topics we’re brought up. Lingering questions about the ‘Kaku’ transfer drama, and the state of the roster dominated the call.
Let’s take a look at what Armas had to say:
State of the ‘Kaku’
The biggest story this offseason centered around Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra. The Red Bulls’ maestro became entangled in a transfer saga that left fan’s heads spinning. Despite a tremendous amount of negative press around the ordeal, it appears ‘Kaku’ is more settled with the Red Bulls than previously reported.
” We are pleased with Kaku,” said Armas on the call. “He’s only been professional as that whole thing came and went… These things come up and it’s real part of our sport and growing the league as we get good players in and young players in. On the inside, it wasn’t a distraction.”
Red Bull fans can breathe a bit easier after weeks of speculation and fears the team may suffer because of the transfer saga.
“Kaku is 100% committed the whole time,” continued Armas. “And he’s incredible. What we learned in this whole process is how incredible he is. His commitment level always stayed the same… So I think we can take some positives from it.
“We have a committed player in Kaku, who is always going to have aspirations and he should. He’s fully committed and he seems happy to be here and we’re thrilled to have him for the future”
Replacing Adams and strengthening the squad
Tyler Adams is the Red Bulls’ biggest loss this offseason. The homegrown player became an integral part of the best regular season in MLS history. Naturally, the young player drew overseas interest, and his departure was inevitable. Replacing him remains a big question mark heading into 2019.
“The ship goes immediately to who we have,” said Armas. “Focusing on their qualities and then meeting the demands of that position and how that fits into our tactics and philosophy. “
Right now, it sounds like Armas plans on finding a solution within the current crop of players. When discussing additional acquisitions, it sounds like the focus is on more attack minded players. The Red Bulls are looking at all of their options, including the addition of a third Designated Player. But don’t expect a major signing before the season starts.
“We’re looking at a few things right now that could happen,” said Armas. “But I don’t know how likely it is but we definitely have some things we’re interested in and are exciting right now. The most I’ll say is that we love young players, we love talented players that fit our philosophy and we have a couple of guys up the field that we are looking at.”
New blood receives rave reviews
The Red Bulls added seven players during the MLS SuperDraft. Despite losing Joey Piatczyc to a career ending injury, all six remain in camp.
They also added a new homegrown player, Omir Fernandez, signed Marcus Epps and traded for Amro Tarek for additional center back depth. Between the draft picks and the newly integrated players, Armas likes what he sees.
“First of all Omir Fernandez, he’s got something,” said Armas. “He’s clever and shifty. And [he] knows the Red Bull philosophy. He’s an elegant player with speed, dynamic and has a really good soccer brain so up the field he’s interesting.
“Janos Loebe has had a good camp. Sean Nealis, local kid from Hofstra, has performed really well. The whole staff can’t believe how good these kids are in terms of givers. [They are] team guys and philosophy guys. Sean Nealis on the backline next to Tim Parker has been excellent.”
The other notable center back in the group is first round draft pick Roy Boateng. The Red Bulls completed a draft day trade with FC Cincinnati to get the physically imposing Boateng. Armas called him physically gifted, humble, and open to learning.
“Marcus Epps in the other game showed some promise, running by defenders like they were cones,” said Armas. Epps adds another young, talented winger to the Red Bulls, and he could be rising up the ranks. “He’s fast and he understands the way we press and he’s another great guy with a good attitude”
Armas sang the praises of Amro Tarek and Rece Buckmaster, as well.
“Amro Tarek gives us cover at center back and left back,” said Armas. “He’s a presence and he’s intelligent and another guy we are excited about who also now has MLS experience… Rece Buckmaster, a guy that understands the position really well, he gets up and down and a good 1v1 defender. Again, such a positive outlook and mentality that fits… When we think about the group we will to take to Arizona in a week. It hasn’t been easy to decide who doesn’t make the trip.”
It is a good problem for the Red Bulls to have.
Getting better all the time
Notable injuries last season included standouts Florian Valot, Kyle Duncan, Vincent Bezecourt, and Kemar Lawrence. Armas spoke about the recovery of each player, hopeful they will be contributing soon.
“Kyle had a great offseason and he certainly will be available,” said Armas. “[He] looks great, moving himself along the right way. Florian Valot and Vincent Bezecourt are regularly all in on training and those guys are options. We have to be mindful they had a long lay off and keep moving them along the right way.”
Armas noted that Valot and Bezecourt are options for the February, 20th, Concacaf Champions League matchup with Club Atlético Pantoja.
Armas did not say the same about Kemar Lawrence, but noted that he is recovering well.
“And Kemar was with us in full today and he’s progressing the right way as well…Kemar we are being cautious with, will he be available for that game? He will be an option, whether we use him or not we will make the decision when it gets closer.” He also added, “he looks great.”
Listed as day to day for the Eastern Conference finals, Lawrence has yet to participate in full training.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography