If you are an optimist (and we certainly have a few of those here at EoS), you look at the New York Red Bulls come from behind draw against Real Salt Lake as a sign of the team’s new found tenacity. If you are a pessimist, it’s not too hard to spot the damning similarities from 2012 haunting this team like a bad version of The Amityville Horror.
The truth lies somewhere in between.
Wins and losses are meaningless in the preseason, but certainly, lessons can be garnered from the action. With the new Petke regime, it seems those lessons are coming in bunches.
So what have we learned about this new-look Red Bulls team? Here are a few observations from yesterday’s match:
THE FORMATION – 4-2-3-1:
The tactical look of the Red Bulls starting XI was debated after their match against Malmo FF. After all, it was the team’s first game where they focused on strategy over fitness. Many (myself included) saw a 4-1-4-1 with Dax McCarty playing a padding role in the back with Thierry Henry and Fabian Espindola sharing left wing duties. Wednesday’s encounter against RSL was clear; McCarty and Tim Cahill were listed as the defensive midfield tandem supporting Juninho in the middle, Lloyd Sam on the right and Henry/Espindola at the left wing and forward slot. This modified 4-3-3 was offensively focused, reliant on an overwhelming pressing game and numbers in the attack.
Though it is only preseason, the team continues to show the propensity to concede early goals. Last year, that lack of urgency was pinned on the back of then coach Hans Backe who was repeatedly criticized for the team’s lack of mental fortitude in the early parts of the game. Wednesday night, Real Salt Lake victimized New York twice within the span of five minutes. Malmo also managed to take advantage of the club within the first 15 minutes of their match. There is no question that Petke has the club engaged and playing an inspired style, but some focus needs to be put on eliminating this lingering curse.
This is one aspect of the offense that has been consistent over two matches and gives a nice wrinkle to the attack. Henry manning the left side is a throw back to his most successful era with Arsenal. His respect for the slashing play of Espindola creates an understanding that is crucial between this tandem. With Joel Lindpere gone, the left sided attack is a concern for New York this year. This dichotomy can alleviate that loss.
JUNINHO AND CAHILL:
Social media was buzzing a bit about the productivity (or lack there of) coming from two the Red Bulls most senior, renown commodities. Cahill played a more advanced role behind the rotating Henry/Espindola combination but rarely came into play in his half of work. The same could be said for 38 year old Juninho; a number 10 style playmaker who is more apt to find a dangerous lane than he is playing a two way Dax McCarty style. Both players have the skill to contribute, but one of Petke’s early assignments will be finding an effective spot for both in what he hopes to be a pressing offense. In Juninho’s case, he needs more touches on the ball and a greater focus on his distribution within the system in order to exploit his skills. For Cahill, much like last season, it will be about honing the former forwards abilities to fit the midfield mold while getting him more involved with the offense. His header off the crossbar last night may be a promising sign of things to come.
STILL ROOM FOR ROY:
Give the Costa Rican international some credit; Roy Miller still possesses the kind of explosiveness on the overlapping run and accuracy on the subsequent cross to make him an important figure for this club. It is why Backe played his fullback in such an advanced role. Heath Pearce is perhaps the more well rounded of the left back options, but Miller gives the team an explosive dimension if used properly.
When RSL’s B-squad dominated the Red Bulls starters into an early 2-0 deficit, they showed a passion and hunger any coach would want to see from players looking to find a home. The second half saw a role reversal and New York’s youngsters certainly shined. Marius Obekop was explosive on the ball. Exhibiting great control, he worked a near number 10 role in the midfield to perfection, finding dangerous lanes to exploit while creating others. His passing accuracy left a bit to be desired, but the young Cameroonian midfielder certainly made a case for himself. Tyler Ruthven also played a strong role in the match, shutting down Joao Plata in the second half. Of course, you have to mention the man who nailed the game tying goal. Supplemental pick Michael Bustamonte had a difficult match against Malmo FF but bounced back nicely against RSL; something that surely won’t be lost on Petke and his staff.
THRILLER ON THE SIDELINES:
As EoS first reported last week, John Wolyniec was once again manning the touchline next to Petke and assistant coach Robin Fraser. His addition to the technical staff isn’t quite official, but it sure is looking that way.
- Connor Lade was torched early on defense. With the midfield in need of depth, perhaps focusing him in that role now will prove prudent, especially on the left mid side.
- Luis Robles had back issues and could not play. Ryan Meara is still coming back from offseason hip surgery.
- Peguy Luyindula debuted with the second team but was largely ineffective. His ability is likely best gauged with some time on the first team.
- New York plays the New England Revolution this Saturday.