The 2019 regular season schedules for every club in Major League Soccer have been released, meaning we’re inching ever closer to the start of the new season. While many people may be focusing on the major dates (rivalry week, decision day, playoff rematches, etc), that still leaves over 30 games for a team to play.
In particular, I think the New York Red Bulls’ schedule has a lot of exciting matches that people may be overlooking for a plethora of reasons such as wanting to replay Atlanta or looking forward to games against traditional rivals like DC United and New York City FC. To rectify this, let’s go over a handful of the games that may be stand-outs in 2019.
A few caveats to consider though:
- No “Rivalry Week” games (we all no why these are important, I shouldn’t need to explain that)
- No Atlanta United games (it’s common knowledge these two teams are some of the best in the league, those games are already going to be hyped up)
- No games that are not confirmed at this time (future U.S. Open Cup games, Champions League games, etc.)
*dates are subject to change
vs Orlando SC (Saturday, March 23)
Orlando has not been the strongest side the past few seasons, but an early match with New York in the latter’s second home game of 2019 does intrigue me. This will be a rematch of last year’s Decision Day game (where New York’s nail-biting 1-0 win secured the team its third Supporters Shield trophy) and may also be the first game newcomer Amro Tarek has against his former club. The recent Egyptian national team call up had a single season with the Florida side but has a resume that spans to Germany, Egypt, Spain, and more. Since he was a regular starter for Orlando, it will be interesting to see if head coach Chris Armas starts him this early in the season and tries to use Tarek’s knowledge of The Lions’ playbook.
vs LA Galaxy (Saturday, May 4)
New York City is about to meet Zlatan in person. For the first time, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will make his way to Red Bull Arena as a member of the LA Galaxy in the latest clash between Major League Soccer’s coastal power houses. Los Angeles and New York aren’t rivals in the traditional sense, but whenever two teams in any sport meet from the two cities it seems like it’s more important. Knicks-Lakers, Yankees-Dodgers, Rangers-Kings, and more all feel like prime time worthy games and these two clubs (who faced off in the first game of their inaugural seasons back in 1996) feel like they fit that mold.
With Ibrahimovic entering his second season with LA after nearly pushing them to a playoff berth last season. The Swedish superstar will get his first taste of the South Ward and vice versa – it should be an entertaining bought.
@FC Cincinnati (Saturday, May 25)
This won’t be the first time FCC and Red Bulls play each other in 2019, but the location of this game makes it a bit more interesting than the first meeting the two will have at RBA. The last time these two teams met at Nippert Stadium was on August 15, 2017 in the semi-finals of the U.S. Open Cup Tournament. One win separated the Orange and Blue from becoming the first non-MLS side to reach the final since the Charleston Battery in 2008. The home team had a two goal lead heading into the last 15 minutes of play before New York put two goals past Cincy goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt in the span of three minutes to tie it up. Another Bradley Wright-Phillips goal in the first overtime sealed advancement for New York, 3-2, and left FCC out of the tournament final.
While technically the USL side and the MLS team are separate identities, the fans are still the same (if not multiplied) and I don’t think they have forgotten. This could very well be one of the more hostile environments New York plays in this season and it should be a must see.
@Toronto FC (Wednesday, July 17)
From MLS Cup Champions and CONCACAF Champions League finalists to near bottom of the table in 2018, Toronto FC is in the midst of a identity crisis. The team will look to rebound in both MLS and tournament play and will be at home against the Red Bulls while the later is in the midst of a grueling stretch. The month will start with an away trip against Atlanta on the 7th followed by a home game against NYCFC on the 14th, followed by this game on short rest, and then another four days later in Orlando against the Lions.
Toronto has been picking up defenders left and right in the off-season like Nick DeLeon from DC United and Laurent Ciman from French side Dijon. A worn out New York squad may not be the best match for a team looking for a rebound and stocking up. This game will be interesting to see how Armas’ side handles being in a long stretch of games.
@Portland Timbers (Wednesday, September 18)
The last game on this list is a bit of an oddball. Portland had a near Cinderella run in last year’s MLS Playoffs, only falling in the final against Atlanta United, 2-0. If they had won, not only would the Red Bulls not be playing in this year’s Champions League but also first year head coach Giovanni Savarese would have won his fourth professional soccer championship in six years. Savarse is the former head coach of the North American Soccer League side New York Cosmos and also was a Metrostars in the late 90s as a player and again in the mid-2000s as a director of youth development. Gio is someone with a New York education and soccer background, and I enjoy whenever he has a chance to play against the Bulls whether it be with the Cosmos or Timbers.
Last year, the two squads met in the first game of the season and New York came away with a win, 4-0, at home. With the 2019 game coming so late in the season and on the road, it will be interesting to see where both teams are.