Since taking the helm as the 16th coach in New York Red Bulls history, manager Chris Armas has checkered results. On staff with the club since 2016, he took over for Jesse Marsch halfway through the 2018 season. Although he is well-versed in Red Bull Global’s high press style, he sought to put his own stamp on the team. Despite an early season stumble, signs point towards a renewed stability.
Armas began his tenure halfway through the 2018 season. He replaced Marsch, who joined the RB Leipzig coaching staff. He cut his teeth on a Hudson River Derby loss to NYCFC. But Armas oversaw a 9-3-3 record for the team to end the regular season, resulting in the club’s third Supporters’ Shield. He shared the credit with his predecessor and former Chicago Fire teammate. The thrill was short-lived. Shaky away leg results and costly injuries eliminated RBNY in the playoffs. Armas, relentlessly confident in the team, was determined to make the next season even better.
It was clear 2019 was off to a good start. A resounding win in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 invigorated the team. Despite an away leg rally against Santos Laguna, New York were eliminated in the CCL Quarterfinals. The tournament forced roster rotation, which contributed to the 1-1 draw against Columbus Crew in the season opener. A much more familiar squad made for a resounding 4-1 win against the San Jose Earthquakes in Harrison. Injuries for Bradley Wright-Phillips and Florian Valot weakened the squad, and rumors of Alejandro Romero Gamarra’s discontent were an increasing distraction.
Hot Seat Rumors
The Red Bulls are 5-2-5 in the 2019 regular season so far. Losses have come from a distinct lack of pressing. Armas touts the value of second balls, but the team has been ineffective in that regard. Outsiders grew concerned that Armas was the wrong man for the job long term. Soon came whispers of a possible replacement in former player and club legend Thierry Henry.
The French international had a brief and unsuccessful stint with AS Monaco in League 1. His work with the Belgian men’s national team is regarded as positive overall. Pundits and fans speculated whether Armas should step aside. Sporting Director Denis Hamlett made a brief statement dispelling the rumor and reiterating the club’s confidence in Armas. Since then, RBNY have won three of their last four matches.
Just Getting Warmed Up
The 2019 season will continue to bring challenges. The Open Cup will demand squad rotation. International call-ups will create gaps. A new playoff format may prove unforgiving compared to years past. A player’s coach, Armas has to balance his experience as a player and captain with his tactical understanding as a coach. He draws on his work with Jesse Marsch, Bob Bradley, and Bruce Arena to give his players the tools to adapt within the game. But Chris Armas has made it clear that he is in it for the long haul.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography