Red Bulls’ Open Cup Ouster Shows The Good And Ugly Of New Team Approach

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

EDITORIAL – Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtain said Tuesday night’s victory over the New York Red Bulls was “the Union’s biggest win in their history.”

That may be true.

On the other side of the equation, New York have enjoyed a few highs and several lows in their 20 year existence, but Tuesday’s result won’t rank in the top five of either category.

However, the divisive reaction from the result certainly deserves a category of recognition. Perhaps the “glass half full/glass half empty” award?

Whatever the case may be, Tuesday’s Open Cup ouster served to demonstrate everything that is right and everything that is painful about the team’s new direction and approach.

First, give credit where it is due. No one can say the Red Bulls didn’t go out to try and win this match. The stats tell the story:

  • Shots? 34 to 8. Advantage, Red Bulls.
  • Shots on goal? 10 to 4. Advantage, Red Bulls.
  • Possession? 67.7 to 32.3. Advantage, Red Bulls.

In fact, the closest the Union got to winning the stat sheet battle is in clearances (40 to 31) and saves (9 to 3).

Oh ya … and the final scoreline of course.

Away from slipping banana peels under the feet of John McCarthy and his backline mates, New York did just about everything they could to take last night’s game. They trotted out starters. They laid in a barrage of shots on net. They held possession for the majority of the match.

They did everything.

Everything but score, of course. And that is why soccer is, as Dax McCarty put it, a “cruel” game.

One has to credit both Jesse Marsch and Ali Curtis for the team’s effort and performance this year. The Red Bulls have looked intelligent in possession, focused and determined on attack and overwhelming in nearly every aspect of the game.

On the other hand, their approach has also proven costly in a different way. With an eye on the team of tomorrow, the contenders of today are forced to live with what Marsch calls the “maturation process” of the club, meaning veteran players are saddled with young, inexperienced performers or journeymen whom, for better or worse, are learning on the job or earning minutes where they previously couldn’t.

Case in point: Anatole Abang. The 18-year-old Cameroonian striker earned the nod up top against Philadelphia, pushing Wright-Phillips to the left; a formula which has worked in the past. However, with youth comes growing pains, and that was evident Tuesday night. Whether it was a heavy first touch destroying a multitude of multi-pass buildups or whether it was a series of ill-advised shots on net, plays simply died at the feet of the dynamic, young striker.

Looking for a late game spark, Marsch turned to Manolo Sanchez to make an impact. However, it was clear that the young midfielder was not ready for competition and pressure at this level. In his short time on the field, the lanky Sanchez laid ruin to not one, but two golden opportunities on net that could have ended the match well before overtime. His meek header into the arms of McCarthy put an ugly end to a beautiful Lloyd Sam feed late in the match. A ricochet pinball shortly there after caught the youngster by surprise, landing right at his feet. Sanchez’s response was to simply see the chance clang off his shins and out of danger.

But why should Sanchez carry the burden of being the late game spark anyway? Well, because New York had no choice. They already played their best options in journeymen Sal Zizzo and Mike Grella. As surprising as it may be, this year’s 17th pick of the fourth round of the MLS SuperDraft was the nearest thing New York had to a game breaker.

The Red Bulls have chosen to go the youth route. They have chosen to go budget on journeyman players. They have also decided to trim their cap to a league low $3.9 million.

With those decisions come difficult consequences. Abang and Sanchez are wonderful players with great skills. However, what they bring in promise, the Red Bulls lose in experience, costing them results for today with the promise of tomorrow in hand. Likewise, Grella and Zizzo bring a blue-collar workrate to the midfield and have quickly earned beloved status with the fans. But are they game changers? Not likely.

Austria has decided to allow the Red Bull organization to sink or swim on their own merit. With that comes a budget consciousness never before seen in the Red Bull New York era.

Oddly enough, Marsch’s club is playing with the kind of dominance and sophistication that the franchise has hoped to see since Austria took over operations from the Metrostars.

And that is the juxtaposition tearing apart the Red Bull fans in the wake of the U.S. Open Cup. With a bit of investment, this club can compete and contend for an MLS Cup — but that investment may never come. Instead, youth will be served, and youth will be asked to move mountains on their way to a trophy this season.

Building for tomorrow is costing a talented New York team opportunities for today. That approach came back to bite them in the Open Cup — and it won’t get any easier come the postseason.

  • ALej

    Very true Dave. But it does not need to be this way. Lowest payroll in the league does not equal development, this team should be spending and investing because they have won ib the past. If it aint broke…

  • slowleftarm

    Get your check book out Austria!

    • trollleftarm

      What for? They are already in the “major leagues”. Can’t get demoted. Harrison never won before, so you can’t say they ruined the team. NYC FC just claimed all the New Yorkers who didn’t want to travel to support a meh NJ team. If they didn’t go to see Henry, they won’t go to see Stascha Kjklsjyn. Anyway, it’s LA over and over in the so-called parity league.

  • Ulrich

    If you were willing to chastise NYCFC for losing to RB with a man advantage, then you should levy the same snark towards RB for losing to Philly when RB enjoyed a man advantage.

    Because RB played their starters, and it was a late-stage USO Cup game & RB not only had the man advantage but gave up the goal while enjoying it, I’d definitely say this goes down as one of their worst games in their lackluster history. They set the table with their best china and crystal, cooked a feast, and then forgot to eat – your recap makes it sound like they just didn’t want seconds.

    • slowleftarm

      Have you followed this team? There’s a lot of competition in the “worst games in history category. This one’s not even close.

      • Tony

        well put….sad fact,but well put

  • Nuno

    GREAT article Dave. We can only hope that this dedication to a direction that should have been taken a long time ago isn’t too little too late for the fan base. I’m in for the long run…but it is frustrating. We’re a piece or two away from being REAL contenders, but it’s not going to happen.

  • sell red bull

    Well, what a surprise red bull cant capture their fanbase.
    I always thought red bull would sell or rebrand once the new new york would arrive.
    Rafa Marquez was a total fail, bad attitude and red bull didn’t have a B plan.
    If it wasn’t for Henry, cahill would have never come and hes overrated.
    Henry tried his best but red bull has never had a b,c or d plan.
    They lack entrepreneurship and a real owner for the new york market.
    They can go for any real soccer star, but they are holding back like an mls 1.0 team.
    Drogba, tevez, gio,chicharito, wouldn’t mind representing red bull,money talks but now players might want to represent nyc fc even more.
    If red bulll doesn’t buy anybody by next season, they are definitely on the clock.

  • BWP said.

    “They were obviously mentally stronger than .”

    Well that falls on the players and the coach.

  • Marsch said.

    “We tried every which way with Philly to reschedule, but they showed no flexibility whatsoever. We gave them 5, 6, 7 options. They didn’t want to work with us.”

    WAAAA WAAAAA Stop crying you loser. Even Ben Olsen is laughing at you. Philly had NO REASON to accommodate your team’s scheduling f-up. Why the hell should they give up a competitive edge because YOU over-booked RBA to make money on the ICC games.

    They kicked your balls with only 10-men. Your team had 34 shots (most of which Philly invited you to take) and 10 were on goal. 24 were not. That’s on you. Stop whining about “Philly was mean to us” GROW A PAIR!

  • Tony

    Martinez you are either the most naive writer in history or a RB shill. Im not sure which is worse—–but I suspect shill, as anyone who believes that Curtis and Marsch are the modern day miracle workers of football must be getting paid under the table. No one could be that stupid and really believe that. After all,they are the self-professed architects of this current model of mediocrity, for which you want to bestow plaudits.Tell me its all one big typo please!

    • bleeckerst

      Well put. Curtis is essentially a step up from an MLS intern and Marsch is a coach who no body wanted.

      Whilst the article hit some good notes, there is no consistency in the corporate strategy over the team. Red Bull Arena for example, why spend $230-250 million on a stadium, yet just let the team crash and not invigorate the corporate strategy to build a team that not only makes a profit but also wins an MLS Cup.

      Red Bull GmbH can’t be half pregnant and need to realise that ASAP.

  • Now what?

    Okay. So Marsch/Curtis pull a hostile take-over in January replacing a regime that produced the only trophy in 20 years. So they know they have to win a trophy. They know the MLS Cup is out of the question so OF COURSE they had to take the US Open Cup seriously. They thought they’d win and appease fans with a second trophy.

    They put all of their chips into the middle and got beat by the only MLS team they faced. And it wasn’t even a good MLS side! AND they lost to a team that had no Sapong and 10 men in the heat. Marsch double downed and busted.

    So now what? They can’t get the MLS Cup, they were embarrassed in the USOC and they kicked out the only guy that ever won hardware. This season is no officially a failure unless they win the East outright. Ain’t happening and RB fans will start 2016 the same way RB fans usually start a new season. With a new coach.

    What a waste.

  • Thank god I was at a minimum smart enough to give up season tix this year. That decision I’ll give myself credit for whether you all agree or disagree with any of my opinions.

  • ???

    Another article about how cheap red bull ownership is. This is a story that simply won’t go away because journalist are too lazy to ask the real question. Yep, your analysis is flawed and not New York worthy. You take a swipe at young players and veteran journey men but say nothing about the veteran leadership that much like the DPs across the league don’t perform. Hey let’s face it you call red bulls cheap based on one tenant DP signings but the fact is you never ask DPs the questions: why aren’t you playing with heart? The same needs to be asked to Dax felipe and klejstain which look great at times but when it matters most they flop like all the DPs. Yesterday’s loss wasn’t not a question of money, young players, or journeyman. The veterans on the field failed us when we needed them most! No creativity

  • Sasha embellishment

    Independent Review Panel rescinds Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin’s red card. No wrong doing found. Ted Unkle mistake.

  • Anthony

    They got what they deserved for scheduling friendlies on USOC dates. They may have claimed to be taking this seriously, and on the field they were, but its still the same Red Bull off it…i suspect if this game was played at night as usual with no distractions (friendly money grabs) they would have advanced. Its a shame, this was their best ever chance in years at winning their first real trophy.

  • Hey Dave how about calling out Ali for once in your life. Did the 300 page plan call for doing nothing for an entire year. Stop being a RB shill and get u some answers

    • slowleftarm

      They haven’t done “nothing” this year! They’ve shed $10m in salary which is by far the most important thing to ownership since the whole point of the 300 page plan is to save ownership money. Mission accomplished!