Eye on Tactics: Kljestan leads RBNY in dominating stretch as NYCFC’s Villa, Mix disappear


Lead Analyst

nycfc rbny june 28 formations

After a quick start to the second edition of the ‘Hudson River Derby,’ NYCFC failed to keep pace and gave up three goals in 26 minutes.

Once RBNY came to grips with the occasion and field dimensions, they sustained a 40 minute period of dominance (30′-70′) which ultimately decided the match.

Jesse Marsch made a few adjustments past his sides recent victory against Real Salt Lake. Abang remained the first choice striker, as Wright-Phillips was again selected on the left wing and Kljestan was given his role behind the striker after serving a one match suspension for accumulation of yellow cards.

Jason Kreis selected the same side that went to Toronto and earned a 2-0 victory. The shape sees McNamara line up as a forward next to Villa, but is rarely deployed as such. He sags into the midfield and plays as a true left midfielder of a diamond – Jacobson as base, Ballouchy as the right side and Grabavoy as the point of the diamond, although slightly sliding left toward McNamara.

This shape is a diamond-and-one (similar to the box and one defensive concept used in basketball) where in Diskerud has the freedom to float, but usually finds himself parallel with Grabavoy.

The first 25 minutes of the game, NYCFC took advantage of their home field by displaying quick possession in the midfield, discipline by Jacobson to consistently balance Diskerud’s freedom and Villa was both available to feet by quickly checking back to the team shape and stretching the defense, generally towards the right side of the RBNY defense.

nycfc rbny diamond + 1

The first goal was the result of NYCFC’s squeezing every advantage they could out of their (supposedly) 70 yard wide field by using a series of designed short corners. A poorly cleared ball led to a second cross and a poorly defended back post finished by McNamara.

The tempo was pushed by NYCFC through Villa’s frantic work rate to find the ball and the midfield’s propensity to look forward, instead of negatively or square. Although the formation that Kreis deployed was it’s first, he seemed intent to overrun the midfield centrally to attempt to disrupt RBNY’s clear advantage in their last encounter.

As RBNY settled into the game, the transition from wing to wing was prioritized, as McCarty started to exploit NYCFC’s compact midfield by distributing long balls to his weak side defenders and midfielders. The majority of possession started to swing into RBNY’s favor at the 30th minute mark, and was retained until the 70th minute (RBNY had 61.7% of possession over the 40 minute period).

nycfc rbny june 28 mccarty switch fields

As the influential 40 minute chunk of time progressed, Kljestan’s influence grew. He began to dynamically find spaces in front of NYCFC’s defense, but behind the defensive midfielder Jacobson, and beyond his outside midfielders to create depth. This allowed BWP to frequently drift inside into the box, where he is most dangerous.

Although Villa and Diskerud started the game well, there were large stretches of the match where NYCFC struggled to break the RBNY pressure, in and out of possession. As the two highest players up the field, and individuals that must influence the game in crucial blocks of time, both players were quiet during these periods. From minute 30 to 70, Diskerud had 6/18 touches in the NYCFC offensive half, and none in their offensive third. Although NYCFC’s compact structure was generally advantageous defensively, they could not properly break out offensively, and was their handicap going forward.nycfc rbny klj movement beyond strikers

RBNY’s third goal was a product of Kljestan’s willingness to get deep within the final third, beyond his midfielders and forward. His deep ball maintenance allowed distribution to Grella and eventually drew a foul in a dangerous area. The resulting set piece was lofted back post by Kljestan to an isolated Miazga, who was able to win his 1v1 battle and finish. Kljestan was able to consistently retain the ball in deep spaces, whether through his penetrating runs found by his teammates or through his ball maintenance through isolated dribbling. He was the difference for RBNY offensively – Kljestan had 60 touches on the ball, only seven of which were in the RBNY defensive half and in the influential 40 minute period only 2/28 touches were in the RBNY defensive half.

RJ Allen was another weakness of NYCFC’s formation, another variable that RBNY took advantage in their last match up. Both BWP and Kljestan keyed on Allen, and were able to engage him in pairs which left him defensively out of his depth. As Matt Doyle (MLS Armchair Analyst) points out, RBNY was able to create 13 first half crosses and Kljestan sent or played 13/17 passes to or from Allen’s defensive pocket.

Kljestan’s growing offensive influence and recognition of Allen’s weakness, combined with NYCFC’s inability to connect phases in possession to relieve pressure were the two most influential tactical variables. David Villa’s energy to find vacant space waned and Mix Diskerud couldn’t influence the game in his offensive third; two variables that doomed NYCFC to an emphatic defeat.

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  • Matt

    Good article. Minor nit pick: Sacha missed RSL because of the straight red against Vancouver, not accumalted yellows… right?

    • Coleman Larned

      You’re right, thanks for the edit. I’ll update it. Glad you liked the article, any thoughts on the game?

  • Matt

    Whoops: accumulated… you got the idea?

  • Anonymous

    Great article. These articles focusing on tactics really help make us all more informed students of the game. Kudos.

  • NittanyMetros

    What happened to all those winners that said Red Bulls weren’t a NY team, crying over Mike Petke, etc.? Hopefully ISIS got to them, but living in their parents basement is formidable barrier.

    • #RedBullShout

      I have a Metrostars jersey I wear to bed.

      • NittanyMetros

        My grandfather did the same with a New York Highlanders jersey, he refused to realize they were the Yankees and his name wasn’t coming back. And my dad with his New York Titans, just hated the name Jets. It’s a New York/delusional thing, must be our tap water.

        • Harry Harrison

          Go St. Louis Browns!

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