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Red Bulls sack head coach ahead of Sunday’s game against the Union

Jim Curtin “saddened” by dismissal of former teammate and friend from Red Bulls

MLS: New York Red Bulls at New England Revolution Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Beware the new coach bump?

The New York Red Bulls announced the firing of head coach Chris Armas on Friday, two days ahead of their match with the Philadelphia Union without announcing a successor. Assistant coach CJ Brown was also relieved by Kevin Thelwell, who became the club’s head of sport in February.

“I’m saddened by it,” head coach Jim Curtin said in a press conference Friday when asked about his close friend and former teammate. “Chris is a guy who taught me so much in the game and was such a great leader and captain.”

Armas, who was with the Red Bulls for 2 and a half seasons, is the second coach in MLS to be fired since play resumed at the MLS is Back Tournament, joining Frank de Boer, who was relieved of his duties with Atlanta United after they were eliminated from the tournament.

“I can’t speak to the goings on behind the scenes at Red Bull, but I can speak to the quality person that Chris Armas is and the quality coach that he is,” Curtin said.

The Union beat the Red Bulls at home in their last meeting on August 25. They went on to draw 1-1 with New England and lost to D.C. United on a late goal on Wednesday.

“It’s in the Red Bull DNA to play with a similar intensity, similar style so we don’t think that they’re all of a sudden going to change formations or anything too crazy or drastic,” Curtin said. “So it’s up to us to be ready and up to us to perform and try to get three points.”

The Union have only won once at the Red Bulls in 12 regular season attempts. That was more than five years ago now on May 24, 2015. Not a single current player on the roster dressed for the game that day.

While the status of Kai Wagner remains up in the air, the Union squad remains mostly healthy with the exception of a knock to Ilsinho that Curtin doesn’t anticipate will impact his availability. Both Alejandro Bedoya and Brenden Aaronson, who subbed out in the 61st and 62nd minutes Wednesday, are fine and will be available for Sunday.

The away game will be the Union’s third in the first phase of regular season play since the MLS is Back Tournament ended. Unlike trips to New England and Columbus, they’ll be traveling by bus up I-95 instead of taking a charter flight the day of the match.

“I don’t want to tweak too much because it does feel rushed on the road now,” Curtin said when asked if preparations for Sunday would differ from the first two true road games post-pandemic. “While it is a little shorter trip to New York, I don’t want the players to feel rushed so we will keep that same schedule even though we’re not getting on a plane.”

The game kicks off at 7 p.m. on PHL17 and will stream on in-market and ESPN+ out-of-market.