It was a succesful debut for Chris Armas as a head coach.
The New York Red Bulls‘ assistant coach guided his team to a 1-0 win over New York City F.C. on Wednesday night in the U.S. Open Cup. It is a sign, perhaps, of things to come for the talented and gregarious Armas.
He is a man, a personality, who is clearly poised for a bigger role down the road in his career.
If head coach Jesse Marsch moves on from the organization someday, it will be Armas who likely will take the reigns of the Red Bulls. Long Island born and bred, Armas began his playing career with the Long Island Rough Riders before moving on to MLS in its nascent year in 1996.
Six All-Star appearances and 66 caps with the national team later, Armas is arguably the best defensive midfielder in league history. It is this experience coupled with his soccer acumen and a quick wit that will make him a natural someday as a head coach in MLS.
And if reports earlier this season were to be believed, other teams have circled around to enquire about him interviewing for head coaching jobs.
Armas stepped in Wednesday night along the sidelines for Marsch, who was suspended for the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup stemming from an incident a season ago. The Red Bulls, without Marsch, looked prepared and ready for what turned out to be a heated match.
“I enjoyed the whole day today. Game day for me is my favorite day of the week. It’s almost like when I leave the office on the night before, I feel like work is done. Like, Jesse, we call him the madman. He’s incredible how he works. The demands he puts on himself, then us.
“Yesterday evening, it starts the enjoyment, like I can’t wait for game day. Then, to have a little bit of a different role today. Again, my role didn’t change that much. Pregame talk, halftime talk, just try to let it breathe a little bit, then the guys take it over, as we hope that the guys can do,” Armas said after the match.
“I enjoyed the game tonight. I really did. One, we move on in the tournament, right? Mission accomplished there. Two, probably mostly important, I think we’re most proud of the coaching staff. I mean, they’re a great team. To watch what they do … Again, it’s my job these days to watch how they can dismantle teams, pull them apart. Knowing what they’re going to do, knowing what we’re going to do, [it’s] very conflicting.
“To see our guys come out ahead, moving on is good, moving on in the tournament is good. Especially that second half, I thought we had a good grasp on it.”
Marsch’s seat on the front row of the bench was left empty. Armas occupied his normal seat, immediately to the right of where Marsch would sit.
Armas has been an assistant under Marsch the past two seasons. Before this season, it was Denis Hamlett who served as the interim head coach when Marsch faced similar suspensions, always in league play.
Now that Hamlett got a much-deserved promotion to sporting director this offseason, it is now Armas who steps into this role when Marsch is unavailable. Earlier this year when Marsch was in Scotland working on his UEFA coaching license, Armas took over training duties ahead of a regular season game for the Red Bulls.
Armas found out on Monday that Marsch would be suspended by US Soccer for the Open Cup match just two days later.
After a scoreless first half, the Red Bulls dominated the second 45 minutes. The Red Bulls were lethargic in the first half, allowing NYCFC attacking midfielder Maxi Moralez to repeatedly threaten on the counterattack, cutting through the center part of the midfield. The changes made by Armas, noticeably the insertion of Daniel Royer on the wing at halftime, certainly paid dividends.
Royer scored the game-winner midway through the second half.
“Well, it’s the halftime talk,” Armas jokingly said about the halftime changes.
“No, there wasn’t a whole lot said at halftime. Listen, taking off Moralez maybe helps us in terms of them not being able to find the game a little bit more. I think beyond that, it was a real will to come out on our team. We talk about the New York Red Bulls, what makes us-us, I think we saw that in the second half to the highest level.
“So you credit the guys. Again, we’re in a single-elimination tournament here. How bad do you want this? It comes down to that oftentimes, and I think we saw that. It was dominant in the second half. For whatever reason, yeah, the guys get tons of credit for that.”
Red Bulls Notes
- Wednesday’s match drew an announced 11,311 to Red Bull Arena, the second largest U.S. Open Cup crowd in franchise history. Two years ago a match against the NASL’s New York Cosmos set the franchise attendance record in the tournament, with 11,442 at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls won that match against the Cosmos as well.
- Right back Michael Amir Murillo (Panama) and left back Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica) missed the Wednesday night win, the likely starters both away with their national teams. Both players are expected to be available for Sunday at the Philadelphia Union.
- Ryan Meara posted a shutout in goal, a rare start for the team’s backup goalkeeper. For Meara, it was especially sweet as he was on loan two years ago in NYCFC’s inaugural season, but played just one match.