Failure To Communicate: Red Bulls’ coaches, players caught off guard by BWP’s yellow card suspension

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

The New York Red Bulls were completely unaware about the possibility of Bradley Wright-Phillip’s suspension immediately after their loss against New England.

That fact became painfully obvious post match, starting with the comments of head coach Mike Petke.

“What, Bradley is suspended?” the Red Bulls boss said when questioned by a reporter in his post-game conference. “Ya, I didn’t even realize.”

That was a common refrain throughout the locker room. To a man, players and coaches alike expressed surprise and disbelief in the suspension. That, of course, is a surprise in and of itself considering yellow card suspensions were always going to be a predictable dilemma to players carrying cards into the series.

“I didn’t know the rules of the yellow card accumulation,” Wright-Phillips admitted. “I’m angry, obviously. I’m angry. Stupid yellow card and now I have to pay.”

“I guess I didn’t realize Brad was going to be out, so I haven’t really thought about it,” added Eric Alexander.

“Yeah, unfortunately we just found that out after the game,” Luis Robles revealed.

“I didn’t [know],” Designated Player Tim Cahill said of the rules. “I didn’t have a clue … The rules change all the time. In Champions League, if you get a yellow today and a yellow next week, you are suspended.”

Asked if blame falls on Petke for the oversight, Cahill simply said “No.”

“Trust me, I was asking on the bench about this rule,” he continued. “If I get a yellow card today, and I get one next week, what’s going to happen? They said I could go on and get a yellow today, so I know I can go in with a bit of force and win the ball. If I know I can’t get one today and another next week, then today I’m taking it easy.”

That is a luxury Wright-Phillips would have certainly appreciated. After all, his yellow for obstruction was blatantly wrong, and with some foresight, easily avoidable.

Regardless of the reasoning, blame for the uncertainty falls at the feet of the head coach. The only reason that statement may be received with some contention is due to the unique working relationship within the technical staff. Petke will be the first to credit assistant Robin Fraser for the tactical nuance and week-to-week preparation of his players. It is a departure from the usual defined roles between head coaches and their top assistants, with the former taking on the tactical purview and the latter charged with implementation and preparation. That wrinkle in structure places a share of the blame across the board, from Petke down to his technical staff and up to the sporting directors themselves.

Ultimately, however, the buck stops with the boss, and that failure in preparation now puts New York behind the eight ball with Wright-Phillips out for Gillette.