Queens, NY – Thierry Henry who?
That’s what Red Bulls supporters were saying after Saturday’s 2-0 win vs. FC Cincinnati. New York is 5-1-1 in their last seven matches and have effectively put an end to any rumors of Chris Armas getting the sack.
The 2019 season got off to a terrible start for New York, victorious in only one of their first seven matches and found themselves at the bottom of the MLS table. With the team struggling, rumors of ex-RBNY legend Thierry Henry coming in to save the day caught major traction on Twitter. So much so that Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett had to release a statement saying the Henry reports were false.
Ultimately, Red Bulls brass stuck by their man and that decision is paying dividends. Chris Armas’ side have crept their way up to third in the Eastern Conference, only four points off D.C. United in first-place. New York’s recent run of form has seen them defeat quality teams such as LA Galaxy, FC Dallas and Atlanta United.
New York has kept clean sheets in two of their last three matches, doing so while playing without key members of their back-line. Aaron Long (hamstring) has missed all three matches and Tim Parker (red card) had to sit out vs. his former club, the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Amro Takek and Sean Nealis were called upon to play major minutes in their absence and the reserve center-backs have risen to the challenge. Nealis scored the go-ahead goal in RBNY’s 3-1 victory over FC Dallas. The rookie from Hofstra followed up that performance by getting the“MLS assist” on New York’s only goal vs. Atlanta. Tarek has been a revelation this season, rejuvenating his career in New York after being acquired from Orlando City before the 2019 MLS Super Draft.
Chris Armas deserves more than his fair share of the credit for the Red Bulls turnaround. His player management, attention to detail and tactical substitutions have made all the difference for New York in the standings.
The Henry rumors have subsided, for now. But the biggest test of the second-year coach has yet to come. New York will be without five players, many of them starters for large portions of June and July during the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament. Aaron Long (USA), Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica), Michael Murillo (Panama), Derrick Etienne Jr. (Haiti) and RBNY II defender Jordan Scarlett (Jamaica) have all been named to their countries 40-man provisional rosters.
In addition, Kyle Duncan has been invited to the USMNT U-23 camp in preparation for 2020 World Cup qualifying. Luckily, Duncan is not expected to miss any MLS matches as the camp will coincide with the leagues international break. Nonetheless, Armas will have his hands full trying to integrate reserve players into the starting lineup without upsetting the apple cart.
It remains to be seen if the Red Bulls can stay afloat while their first-teamers are away on International duty. But one thing is for certain, Chris Armas will be the one steering the ship.
Not Thierry Henry.