An early goal conceded by the Red Bulls drew flashbacks of the 2012 season, but that is where the similarities ended.
In the first real look at new boss Mike Petke’s tactical influence, the Red Bulls earned their second victory in two preseason matches, coming from behind twice to beat Malmo FF 3-2.
“We started a bit slow,” Petke conceded. “They were a very organized team like we knew they would be, very disciplined, but after the first ten to fifteen minutes, we got control of the game.”
And control they did. The Red Bulls drew inspiration from the early set back and put pressure on the Malmo back third with threatening runs, forward movement and a quick touch and go style. Eventually, Malmo was caught flat footed. Newcomer Fabian Espindola dispossessed his defender and found Thierry Henry for the go ahead goal.
“We were pressing high more than anything in the middle,” Espindola said. “They made a mistake, I took the ball, passed it to Henry and he finished the play.”
All the while, a vocal Petke screamed instructions from the touchline begging players to continue the attack. That became a running theme throughout the match.
Juninho, who started and featured for all of 36 minutes, was instrumental in the team’s midfield while Henry and Espindola provided the threat up top. Dax McCarty and Tim Cahill played centrally while Henry and Espindola took turns at the wide left position, with Lloyd Sam providing the pressure from the right.
The second half was nearly a replay of the first. Wholesale changes brought in eight new faces and their lack of recognition showed. Malmo easily broke down the Red Bulls defense and caught an out of position Robles for the go ahead goal. In a replay of the first half, New York managed to regroup behind what Petke called his “so called reserves” and take the game to Malmo. A late strike by Red Bull Academy product Amando Moreno and a game winner by trialist Raphael Domingues sealed the come from behind victory for New York.
“They are eager, hungry and they showed it in the second half,” Petke said. “They played very well.”
While their match against the Crew was all about fitness, Petke said this one would be of the tactical variety and the Red Bulls surely looked more organized and aggressive. Though their shape wasn’t defined, it appeared they were playing a variation of a 4-2-2, likely a 4-1-4-1 with a target striker up top (Henry or Espindola who both switch off on the left during the first half) and McCarty padding the defenders as he did so well last season.
“We saw bits and pieces of what we have been working on and one of the first things that come to mind is that first goal,” Petke said. “Other times it didn’t go so well in both halves but it’s a step in the right direction.
“That pressing game is all good, but that first goal wasn’t positive.”
As the first team did their job, Petke was also pleased with his second half substitutes who showed plenty of fire in leading the side to their comeback victory. Ruben Izquierdo in particular drew plaudits for his performance which, in part, helped earn him a contract with the team. The winning goal came off the foot of new trialist Rafael Domingues.
New York now looks towards Arizona for the Desert Diamond Cup. The ten day trip will feature four matches for the team starting with a February 13th clash against Real Salt Lake, followed by the New England Revolution, the Seattle Sounders and either a championship match or a third place game to end the trip.
For Petke, the goal to the preseason remains the same.
“Keep building on this,” he says. “There are a couple of things that we recognize we have to work on, tweak a little bit, we have to bring to their attention and improve but like I said, two preseason games, two wins. That is where we want to be attitude wise and we are happy with that.”
In case you missed it, here is the game in it’s entirety: