Eye On Tactics: Red Bulls “High Tempo” offense put to test


Tactical Analysis

A flatter midfield duo of McCarty and Felipe were unable to consistently connect with the front four of the New York Red Bulls, which isolated BWP and rendered Kljestan offensively ineffective throughout the match. Although LA Galaxy only had 2 shots on goal, the visitors were more efficient with their chances and gained a point.

nyrb lag April 26 2015 formationJesse Marsch has settled on a starting 10, and chose to again switch the left midfielder, opting for Zizzo instead of Grella to start against LA.

In reaction to the opponent’s 4-4-2 formation, Marsch set up McCarty and Felipe to play an even base of the midfield triangle to match up structurally against LA’s flat two midfielders. Duvall was encouraged to bomb on the right flank to overlap Sam and contribute offensively, but to also pin LA’s adventurous winger Zardes back into his own half.

Bruce Arena gave a second start to his 18-year-old forward Jamieson and allowed him the freedom to roam beneath their target, Gordon, to use his athleticism and pace to influence the Galaxy’s final third.

New York Red Bulls started as they have all season and pressed high as a full unit, not allowing LA to establish comfortable possession from the start.

This, however, did not  provide the interception and tackling results that the style prioritizes. In the first half, the Red Bulls press only resulted in four interceptions and 47% of tackles won.

A mature, individual goal came against the run of play in the 10th minute as the young Jamieson isolated Red Bulls’ Duvall on the left side of the box, misdirected both Duvall and McCarty and finished to the far post. Although this came against the tide, LA started to continually exploit the space left by McCarty and Felipe as the two frequently committed to press defensively.

Jesse Marsch needed to address the disconnect between his front and back halves, usually linked by the midfield triangle, and encouraged McCarty and Felipe to offset offensively. At the start of the second half, it became obvious that, in possession, one would step above the other to combine with Kljestan and the front three.

This lack of connection was highlighted by Kljestan’s ultimately ineffective second half. His pass completion rate dropped from 81% (25/31) to 61% (19/31), didn’t provide an advanced, secondary option to BWP and his defensive work rate dropped as well.

The ability to be effective in the advanced central midfield position in the current Red Bulls system is reliant on three variables: the ability to link play from the back six to the front four, the offensive support of BWP as a lone striker (getting beneath to join and beyond to provide depth), and the willingness to spearhead the defensive press.

As Red Bulls tired, Sam and Zizzo started to gain more of the ball and positively affect the offensive half by relieving  pressure from the middle of the park. For New York’s first and only goal, Sam picked up the ball on the right wing and drove diagonally, found an isolated Zizzo who was able to cross the ball and eventually found Felipe’s head and the back of the net — much to the surprise of Felipe himself who didn’t know much about it.

The Red Bulls’ tiresome first half work rate once again proved costly in the later stages of the game as their defensive edge wilted and the midfield battle started to sway LA’s way – Juninho/Husidic won 86% (6/7) of their challenges compared to Felipe/McCarty only winning 25% (1/4) in the second half.

Although BWP found himself with a number of full chances, he was isolated for much of the game and struggled to be the culmination of any consistent build up play. This is a role that he might need to get used to as teams key in on him defensively and as a product of the team’s current, preferred formation.

Although a point is a decent result against the reigning MLS champion LA Galaxy, Jesse Marsch and his side expected three points and a statement victory. There were three issues that were evident in this match that must be addressed going forward, each having to do with the new Red Bulls changes. 1) How does Kljestan combine linking the front and back as well as getting beyond BWP offensively? 2) Can Red Bulls prioritize how to ‘rest in possession’ to compensate for their high energy, defensive press? 3) Is the team dynamic enough to change tactics 2/3 into a game to see victories out?

Ultimately a good point, and these issues are expected growing pains of completely edited ideology.



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  • Great piece. Our midfield has been the crux of our success so far, but I feel like I’m not seeing Kljestan mesh with the rest of the team, or grow into his role yet. He’s often slow on the ball, not as aggressive as I’d like, or pacy enough with his thinking and passing – many of his passes tend to slow counters or offensive breaks that ultimately break down or are snuffed out. Not sure if it has to do with his acclimatization back to MLS from Belgium, but he always seems a step too slow and unconvincing with the force of his play…

  • The crux of our success with all due respect is crappier opponents than even our inept selves. Have you watched the crap MLS is putting out this year? It’s so bad that a simple high pressure scheme by RB is largely working because these teams don’t have the technical ability to play it out of the back under pressure. Simple concept of pressing high and shrinking the field making the spaces tighter and easier to defend MLS pros can’t figure it out? Low technical level and poor movement off the ball is the hallmark of current RB success together with Marsch actually doing something pretty obvious,but smart. Putrid league where basic crap like this is hailed as genius.

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