Category Archives: New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls

Home Sweet Home for New York Red Bulls

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, March 16: 4-1 Win

Ah, Spring. When young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of MLS. At least, we hope so. It was still rather chilly, but a bright sunny afternoon welcomed fans old and new to Red Bull Arena. The home match against the San Jose Earthquakes happens every other year, and new Quakes coach Matias Almeyda is looking to bring his team into the playoff conversation.

You know I’m a dreamer: This is already Matchday 3. The season is well on its way, with all its narratives being formed and tweaked. The Red Bulls have lived and learned with two home games in their latest attempt at the CONCACAF Champions League. But the league home opener is a special moment. A halftime ceremony celebrated the 2018 Supporter’s Shield, as well as the team’s previous two, which are all immortalized on the building itself. Recently retired former Red Bull Mike Grella was invited to hold up the 2015 Shield at the ceremony. Confetti-filled posters of the players from Decision Day 2018 were distributed to fans following the match.

RBNY supporters group, Vikings Army, display an “Unfinished Business” tifo at the home opener. Photo by Sylvana Budeshelm

Sometimes nothing keeps me together: The game itself didn’t look so good at the start. The Red Bulls were unsettled throughout the first half. The high press Red Bull thrives on was keeping them on the attack, but no one could find the back of the net. At the same time, the Earthquakes looked threatening after every turnover. Just five minutes into the match, Christian Espinoza sent a low shot past Luis Robles. Then, around the thirty-minute mark, a rough challenge sent midfielder Florian Valot to ground. With a scream. And anyone who saw and heard knew. The player who lost most of last season to a tear in his left ACL confirmed a few days after the game that he tore his right ACL. He bounced back once, and fans are confident he can do it again.

I’m on my way: In the 34th minute, homegrown Alex Muyl entered the pitch for Valot. While he had two off-target shots leading up to the halftime whistle, it was clear he was knocking on the door. But that happens a lot, and not just to Muyl. The entire first half was rife with missed opportunities. Kyle Duncan, who had done great work in the back line until the game against San Jose, scrambled for the first half but finally found his bearings in the second. It was time for RBNY to show what they were made of.

Just set me free: If you’re reading this, and you didn’t come to the game because some other commitment was going to have you missing the first half, let me tell you right now: the second half alone was worth the price of admission. Not one, but two goals from Alex Muyl, the first goal of the season for striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, and the final dagger from Daniel Royer.

Take me to your heart: Almost as soon as Wright-Phillips scored, he was substituted. In his place came Mathias Jorgensen, the eighteen-year-old Danish international who was the marquee signing of the Red Bulls’ off-season. And while he didn’t score a hat-trick right out of the gate, coach Chris Armas was happy with what he saw: “He almost scored. It’s right there for him.”

Whether he starts the next match, replaces Wright-Phillips earlier, or plays alongside him remains to be seen. But like many of the players on the roster, it’s about more than what fans see on gameday. “But if you got to know him a little bit the way we do, what a humble, hard-working team guy, and he fought hard, even in a few minutes,” Armas said. This is clearly the identity of the RBNY player, which belies the “villains of MLS” perception that other teams would like to foist upon them.

Enjoying back-to-back home games, the Red Bulls face former teammate Sacha Kljestan and Orlando City SC on Saturday.

Featured image: Sylvana Budeshelm

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Bye, Bye, Bye: Sundry Thoughts on New York Red Bulls

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Matchday 2: Bye Week from League Play

Well… it’s not like I don’t have anything to talk about. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

“… And if they tell two people…”: Look. I’ve ranted about all those folks who complain about attendance at games. It’s forced me to examine the phenomenon myself. Red Bulls are not much different than a lot of MLS teams.

It all comes down to this: a lot of folks in the tri-state area can think of other things they’d rather do than go to a soccer game. Their loss, I say, and I leave it at that. It certainly isn’t my job to look at arena attendance as a problem I must solve.

That being said, the solution may be sitting in front of the average supporter. I work with eight other adults. Just by talking about my writing and the team I cover, two of them are thinking of heading to a game this season.

Like the 1980s shampoo commercial illustrated, word of mouth can be the best way to bring people to a product. The home opener is this weekend– tell your friends.

That old familiar feeling: This is not to say I haven’t been to Red Bull Arena yet this season. I have– twice. For the third year in a row, RBNY earned a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. They started strong with a 5-0 aggregate win over Club Atletico Pantoja of Costa Rica (which meant they got to go to Costa Rica… my snow-shoveling self was a tad jealous).

But the quarterfinal round was a whole ‘nother thing. Liga MX team Santos Laguna, who wallopped their first opponent, Marathon (Panama) 11-2, rode that wave and eliminated Red Bull with an aggregate score of 6-2.

Fans may be asking, “Why,” or better yet, ”Why again?” It’s easy to say they aren’t in full season form, or injuries (Kemar Lawrence most notably) hampered their play. But it’s more than that.

Outspoken soccer pundit Ray Hudson said that CCL “holds a mirror” to MLS teams and says, ‘You’re getting better, but there’s still more work to be done.’ Houston Dynamo was eliminated as well, leaving Atlanta United and Sporting Kansas City to try and flip the script.

Kid and Play: (As if I couldn’t show my age enough…) The young and international talent that RBNY has gathered for this season is nothing short of impressive. From Bronx native Omir Fernandez, who made his first professional goal in the Champions League, to Danish phenom Mathias Jorgensen, who hit the field for the first time in red against Santos this week, the club has their eyes on the future.

Putting them alongside established veterans like Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer is the best way for them to elevate their game. Romanian international Andreas Ivan has proven this strategy is beneficial, as evidenced by a goal each in MLS and Champions League. But what may be even more important is what this shows young fans.

Everyone wants to see someone who looks like them in a spotlight, and that includes young people. Fans across the league: bring your kids while teams play their kids. You won’t be disappointed.  

P.S. What– did you think I wouldn’t include the song?

Featured image: Bill Twomey

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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New York Red Bulls: There They Go

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, March 2: 1-1 Draw

There they go again…

The New York Red Bulls traveled to Columbus and MAPFRE Stadium to begin the MLS season against the Crew. They last met in the 2018 playoffs, where the Red Bulls overcame a 1-0 deficit to advance. But with a new season comes new possibilities. With the Crew safe and sound in Columbus, and with Caleb Porter at the helm, are we going to see a huge change?

Racing Through My Brain: With a much shorter turnaround between rounds of the CONCACAF Champions League than I remember there being last year, the team had to look further down the roster. And there they found a bunch of comeback kids: Kyle Duncan, Florian Valot, and Vince Bezecourt. All three of them had season-ending injuries last year (what is with those knee ligaments?!) and were ready to start again. Bezecourt and Valot went the full 90; Duncan made way for draft pick Sean Nealis.

And I Just Can’t Contain: Fresh off his very first goal for the first team just three days prior, Andreas Ivan scored his very first MLS goal (6′). Valot crossed the ball to him and he headed it home. Fans may have been wondering before this past week if Ivan was going to be an asset or a liability for RBNY. He is quickly proving to be the former. Usual starters Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer have done great things for the Red Bulls, but they can’t stay on forever. Seeing players like Ivan and newcomer Mathias Jorgensen should reassure fans that a future transition will be seamless. (Let’s hope those transitions are far in the future, though!)

This Feeling That Remains: Sure would have been nice to start the season with a win. Crew midfielder Gaston Sauro changed that.  His header off a set piece (41′) leveled the game moments before the half. And while there were a ton of fouls and a grand total of six yellow cards between the two sides, that scoreline remained the same until the final whistle. So at least it wasn’t a loss.

It’s back to Red Bull Arena for the first leg of the Champions League Quarterfinals this week, then a trip to Mexico for the second leg. The Red Bulls return to MLS play on Saturday, March 16, with their home opener against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Featured image: Bill Twomey

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Games of Auld Lang Syne for New York Red Bulls

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Scene: The Press Box at Red Bull Arena, February 27th. The New York Red Bulls are about to host Club Atletico Pantoja in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League. More on that later…

I’m eating a cannoli (like a good Jersey girl) and greeting one of the several staffers that I’ve gotten to know in my time as a reporter.

Me: Happy New Year!

Him: Happy New Year!… Wait– do we still say that at the end of February?

Me: When it’s my first time seeing you, sure!

It’s true: This is a new year; for the now 24 teams in MLS, for the 16 teams who qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League, and for the 84 teams who will compete in the U.S. Open Cup. With a new year comes a new start. The past is gone, and the future is in their hands, or, I should say, at their feet.

Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot:

The team, the fans, and the entire league knows there was a Tyler Adams-shaped hole cut out as the 19-year-old Academy product nabbed some lederhosen and transferred to RB Leipzig (the RB stands for ‘rasenballsport,’ a made-up word to keep the lettering consistent but avoid the blatant corporate branding that is a no-go in the Bundesliga). 

While fans were sad to see him go, Adams is still just a television broadcast away. I have watched his explosive pace and relentless hustle light up the Bundesliga. He was recently credited with his first assist. RB Leipzig is currently in fourth place, which will qualify them for the UEFA Champions League.

What did RBNY get in return? The transfer window was all but silent and all but closed when this announcement was made:

Are fans looking for a big name? Are they looking for someone who has scored dozens of goals in huge competitions overseas? Would they have preferred someone… older?

That’s not who the club is, and they haven’t been that way for a long time. Just because Mathias Jorgensen isn’t a big name, doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be. Wouldn’t you rather have the guy who makes a name for himself with your team? Because I can think of a couple of MLS sides who have been of little consequence in recent years. At least RBNY have made the playoffs nine years running.

And Never Brought to Mind:

Yeah… about that. There is still no star over the crest this year. There is another Supporter’s Shield, the third in six years. If RBNY was RB Leipzig, that would mean three stars. But that isn’t how American sports roll. But what’s done is done. Everyone begins with a clean slate, from the Red Bulls with their Shield to the San Jose Earthquakes with their Spoon.

We’ve Wandered Many a Weary Foot:

So begins the trudge through multiple competitions, regardless of weather and distance. A breezy 25-degree evening saw the Red Bulls sew up their spot in the quarterfinals with a 5-0 aggregate score in the Champions League. They are heading out to Columbus for the start of the regular MLS season (Yay, Condiment Derby!).

The boys in red will return to Red Bull Arena next week to start the series with Santos Laguna, followed by a trip to Mexico for the second leg. This is what roster depth is for, and I am here for all of it.

Happy New Season!

Featured image: Bill Twomey

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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Sounds for the New York Red Bulls Post-Season

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

I’m coming to you from the comfort of my couch once again with an overview of the Eastern Conference competition. Usually, I integrate songs or movies into my articles, but this calls for a more onomatopoeic approach.

Heh

The New York Red Bulls had secured a first-round bye even before winning the Supporter’s Shield on Decision Day. The knockout round was between the Columbus Crew and DC United. While a classic Atlantic Cup matchup would have been amazing, it was the Crew who emerged victorious following 120 minutes and a PK shootout.

Hmph

Leg 1, at MAPFRE Stadium, ended with Columbus ahead by one goal. RBNY fans were bracing themselves for disappointment. Was the team going to crash out in the playoffs after the euphoric Shield win?

HAH

The Empire struck back. A deflection from Alex Muyl (17′) and a brace from Daniel Royer (73′, 76′) put the Red Bulls through to the Conference Finals (3-1 aggregate). Flames shot out from pillars on the goals with every score, and the crowd was equally fired up.

#@&%!

There was an International break that took Aaron Long and Tyler Adams to Europe for friendlies with the US Men’s National team. Kemar Lawrence, Kaku, and Derrick Etienne, Jr. were called to International duty as well. So there was a break in playoff action.

Not really worth complaining about, although I’m sure plenty of people did. The final had been settled before the break anyway. Atlanta United made quick work of NYCFC for their semifinal round. But they had never defeated RBNY before. And while the Red Bulls never took that record for granted, no one was prepared for what actually happened.

Eastern Conference Final (Leg 1) – Mercedes-Benz Stadium

First, RBNY announced Lawrence was injured and put homegrown defender Connor Lade in his spot in the lineup. Then the defense was outrun by Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, and Tito Villalba. But the first and the second sentences are unrelated. If anything, Lade slotted back into the defense wonderfully. It was… hard to explain, really.

To say that they didn’t look like themselves is a sort of cop-out, a cliche that gets trotted out for any loss. But this is the only way to explain it. The Red Bulls push up the field, and the ball spent way too much time near their goal to say they were doing what they do.

Did they keep Atlanta from getting particularly fancy? Sure. But ugly soccer can win, too. And that’s what happened. With a three-goal deficit, RBNY had a lot of work to do in this Eastern Conference Final.

*Sigh*

The Red Bulls scored four or more goals in thirteen matches in all competitions this year. They were able to hold opponents scoreless at home three months solid. So while it was not impossible for the team to pull off something downright magical, the fear crept in.

Eastern Conference Final (Leg 2) – Red Bull Arena

The game itself was good. There was movement. There was pressing. There was also cursing and shoving and yellow cards and a last-ditch goal at the death from Tim Parker that hasn’t gotten half the credit it deserves. Had they been able to hold Atlanta scoreless in that first leg, fans would still be partying and Parker would probably never have to pay for another beer in the NY Metro area ever again.

But instead, Atlanta will be hosting the Portland Timbers for the MLS Cup Final. I’ve watched it the past couple of years, even as I’ve seen RBNY crash out. But this year…? I don’t think I can do it. I’ve never thought the Red Bulls deserved to be there more than they did this year. For them to not be hosting is devastating.

Exit interviews are scheduled for Monday, December 3rd. The team was required to submit roster on Friday, November 30th.  But the first major announcement has already been released:

I’ve met and spoken to Adams once or twice. He is exactly who he seems to be, and the Red Bulls organization has helped to shape that. Not only that, but his career with the USMNT is a bright spot that should mean great things in Qatar and North America for the upcoming World Cup cycles. I look forward to seeing him with RB Leipzig.

As for the rest of the team? I’m not going to make predictions (never been that good at them, anyway). But I do know that I’ll be back to talk about it all next season. I hope you’ll be there to read it.

Featured image: @kakuromero17

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Save the Empire

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Sunday, November 4th: 1-0 Loss 

Eastern Conference Semifinals, Leg 1

Fresh off a first-round bye, the New York Red Bulls traveled to MAPFRE Stadium to face the Columbus Crew. The Crew had to battle through 120 minutes and a penalty shootout to eliminate DC United from the 2018 MLS Playoffs.

So, I have been a part of the #SaveTheCrew movement. And it seems to have worked. But now… it’s time to Save the Empire. (The initial name for the NY/NJ MLS team was Empire Soccer Club.)

DISCLAIMER: One of my favorite players (my 10-year-old) had a game about the same time as the playoff game. I had to listen to the Crew radio play-by-play to get any sense of what was happening in Columbus.

It wasn’t pretty.

WHAT’S WITH TODAY, TODAY?: The only goal of the game was scored for the Crew by striker Gyasi Zardes. While RBNY had a handle on the possession and attack throughout the match, they couldn’t finish their chances. Their set pieces didn’t yield any useful results, and a momentary lapse was all it took for the Crew to get behind the defense. 

I feel as if I have said this before. 

WE MUSTN’T DWELL: There are plenty of serviceable cliches that can be used now. “It’s only halftime.” “Down but not out.” The team has to focus on the things that have brought them this far. Supporter’s Shield winners. CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals. Open Cup runs. They’ve fallen short. There is no shortage of articles from any soccer outlet quick to point this out. This is the moment to flip the script. And if they can do it, nothing will stand in their way. 

DAMN THE MAN, SAVE THE EMPIRE: The second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals will be back at Red Bull Arena, a fortress for the team. With the fans behind them, the team is ready to give it all they’ve got. They will have their Rex Manning Day.  

Featured image: Bill Twomey

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New York Red Bulls and the Decision Day Drama

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Decision Day.

This isn’t a day to just build momentum for the playoffs. Not a time to sit back and prepare for a couple of months off. No one is here to just contemplate his future with his club. The Supporter’s Shield is not absolutely decided yet.

There’s a party to be had. Or one to crash.

Orlando City SC sits in last place for the Eastern Conference. Former Red Bull New York captain Sacha Kljestan is ready to keep his former team from the prize that he once lifted for them.

Just north of the border, Toronto FC hosts Atlanta United. The reigning MLS Cup Champions and current Shield holders have been edged out of the playoffs. With a win by ATL, Atlanta could take both the Shield and the season points record at BMO Field.

Red Bulls rooting for Toronto? Atlanta rooting for Orlando?

This is one strange party.

SUPPORTER’S DAY: From the Fan-designed scarves to the supporter group bubble soccer match at halftime, today was for the fans. They are the reason the Shield is a thing. In other leagues around the world, today would be the final game of the season. They don’t “do” playoffs. And with the Shield within reach, the team was compelled to give it all they had.

NOT SO FAST: Scoreless on both sides in the first half, this wasn’t going to be easy. Toronto FC was nice enough to score two goals, which would do the job. But an actual win would be much more satisfying.

THAT’S THE STUFF: Derrick Etienne, Jr., RBNY’s “Haitian Messi,” who missed a penalty kick in the first half, made a beautiful goal in the 53rd minute. He’s had a rough season, unable to finish the chances he’s had. But he was able to sneak the ball under Orlando goalkeeper Adam Grinwis‘s arm and into the net.

Dom Dwyer found the back of the net ten minutes later, but…… (here we go again…)

ENTER VAR.

The Assistant Referee called Dwyer offside, and VAR confirmed it. So while a scoreline of 1-0 isn’t incredibly sexy, it accomplished the mission. (Oh, and did I mention Toronto ended up winning 4-1? Because yeah they did.)

WHEN IN DOUBT, IMPROVISE: Who doesn’t love a good trophy raise? Only trouble was, the trophy won tonight was out of town. But the team had a banner. They had confetti cannons. They even plasticated the locker room for the champagne showers (plasticate is a word, don’t @ me). So what do they do?

Seriously, though: Congratulations to the New York Red Bulls. The most home points, the most home wins, a league record for points earned, and the third Supporter’s Shield in 6 seasons. A hell of a way to close the season. On to the playoffs!

Featured image: Bill Twomey

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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Red Bulls Doing it Right

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, October 6: 1-3 Win

How much of a bummer would it have been for me to have to report on a loss on my first article back from my hiatus? Thanks to the boys in white, I don’t have to worry about such things.

LONG TIME COMING: I don’t usually know factoids like this… The New York Red Bulls have not won an away game against the San Jose Earthquakes during the regular season since it was the Metrostars playing the Clash (2003). That’s a mighty long time. They did defeat the Earthquakes in a playoff match in 2010. That and two dollars gets them a ride on the subway. The Colorado Rapids won the Cup that year. But I digress.

It could have been a loss. Despite the strongest roster in recent history. Regardless of the resounding win against Atlanta the week before. MLS does… well… MLS things. A cross-country trek. An international break looming. Two usual starters not even along for the trip (Tyler Adams and Daniel Royer).  So there was no foregone conclusion for the evening.

‘SICK’ IS A COMPLIMENT: RBNY used their signature High Press tactic to keep the possession and the threat close to the San Jose goal. Quakes goalkeeper James Marcinkowski, a 21-year-old Academy product, held up for the most part. But then Red Bull workhorse midfielder Alex Muyl recovered Marcinkowski’s deflection of Michael Amir Murillo’s shot and quite literally rode it into the net.

I want you to note that striker Bradley Wright-Phillips was quite close to the action. He could have gotten a foot on there as well. But he didn’t have to, and he knew it. Besides, his time was coming. About 200 seconds later.

Marc Rzatkowski took a free kick that Wright-Phillips got his head on. But it bounced off the far post. But it went right back to Wright-Phillips.

SO. HE. ASSISTED. HIMSELF.

If that isn’t the stuff of legend, I don’t know what to tell you.

THIRD TIME WAS A CHARM: It just kept getting better. Starting with a corner kick (courtesy of RZA), dynamic defender duo Tim Parker and Aaron Long joined forces to land the ball in the net a third time.

(If you didn’t see the play… you have to see the play. Seriously. On a loop.)

ON TO THE NEXT: I could talk about Chris Wondolowski’s goal (83′), but quite frankly I’d rather mention how he missed an open net a few minutes before and made me giggle uncontrollably. But that’s neither here nor there… let the Quakes get their own reporter.

It’s time for an international break. Six players are headed to national team call ups: Derrick Etienne Jr, Haiti; Kemar Lawrence, Jamaica; Amir Murillo and Fidel Escobar, Panama; Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra, Paraguay; and Aaron Long, United States.

Then comes one more away match against the Philadelphia Union and the final home match of the regular season against Orlando City. The Red Bulls have already secured a spot and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Featured image: @NewYorkRedBulls

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Red Bull Review

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

::wakes up, yawns, stretches::

Hey guys… what’d I miss?

::Reads messages on phone::

EVERYTHING?!?!? I MISSED ALL OF IT????

Sorry, folks. I’ve actually been working 7 days a week for the past two months. I barely got to watch any of the games, let alone put together my thoughts on them.

FIVE, SIX SEVEN, EIGHT: The New York Red Bulls ended August with a 5-match run, including a double during MLS Heineken Rivalry Week. I have been critical of the Hudson River Derby as a legitimate rivalry… until I watched that 2nd half (I only got home in time for the second half… yay, my life).

It had spark. It had fight. It had technical ability and creativity on both sides. And it was a 1-1 draw. Scoring actually happened! Then they salvaged the match against Wayne Rooney and DC United 3-3. Draws during Rivalry Week actually make me giggle.

YOU’RE GONNA BE A STAR: There was an international break that RBNY actually honored, and several players were called to their national teams for friendlies. I personally went to the Ecuador v Jamaica match at Red Bull Arena with my dad, my son, and my Colorado Rapids counterpart. That was pretty great. Not getting to see Kemar Lawrence in action… less great. What can you do?

That same night, Tyler Adams, Tim Parker, and Aaron Long were about ten miles away representing the US. Huge congratulations to Aaron Long, who has taken the long way around (pun slightly intended) to his first call-up. He was never in a US Youth National team. He’s a kid from California (who had made questionable hairstyle choices in the past) who has proven himself as a strong defender and credible attacking threat, with two goals for the regular season.

NOW FOR THE BIG FINISH: With three matches left in the season, the New York Red Bulls are in 2nd place for the conference and the race for the Supporter’s Shield. Sophomore darlings Atlanta United are in the lead… but they couldn’t secure their position against RBNY. They were defeated (again) by the boys in red 2-0, even though Bradley Wright-Phillips was suspended due to yellow card accumulation and Tyler Adams was out with back issues.

Adams has also withdrawn from the US Men’s National Team roster for their October friendlies as a result. Aaron Long will be back with the USMNT.

The Red Bulls face the San Jose Earthquakes tonight at Avaya Stadium in California. I might just stay awake to get back in the swing of things.

Featured image: Bill Twomey

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @kerissaward

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RBNY v LAFC

Kerissa Ward - New York Red Bulls/mlsfemale
New York Red Bulls Key Contributor

By Kerissa Ward // @kerissaward

Sunday, August 5: 2-1 Win

In the book Soccernomics, one of the things the authors talk about is how a team will do better more often than not when a new head coach or manager is hired.  It’s not because the manager is better than the last, it’s because the change creates a psychological shift in the players.  We see it all the time in the English Premier League.  Remember when Jose Mourinho left Chelsea a few years ago?  They were near the relegation zone when he was fired and replaced with Guus Hiddink.  The club immediately began playing better and managed to finish the season in 10th place.

The New York Red Bulls are no strangers to this phenomenon.  Before Jesse Marsch, no head coach has lasted longer than two years.  The changes usually happened in the off-season, though.  When Marsch left for RB Leipzig in July, it was the first time in a long time that the Red Bulls had to adjust to a new manager in the middle of the season.

When Chris Armas was named as RBNY’s new head coach, I was ready to see the same performance bump.  Instead, it feels like the team is in a holding pattern, not sure where to go.


The truth is, whoever Red Bull hired would be the Lon Hammond to Marsch’s Noah Calhoun.  When Marsch came into the club, he leaped onto the ferris wheel of our hearts, making us give him a chance.  Not only did we give him a chance, we fell in love and did stuff like ate ice cream and called each other birds.

And when Jesse made it to three years, it looked like we finally found someone who really wanted to be with us.

youandmeforever

But here we are: an Allie Hamilton without a choice.  It’s not as if Lon is a jerk.  Lon’s a good guy and we love him.  It’s just that there’s something about him right now that’s trying to prove he’s just as good as Noah.  And it’s hard to tell if that feeling is coming from him or from us.
lonring

Last night’s match against LAFC was another example of the no-win situation for Armas right now.  While the team won 2-1 with a brace from Daniel Royer, the team felt stuck between the playing styles of Marsch and Armas.

I think this comes from two things: (1) Armas wanting to put his own stamp on the Red Bull system and (2) unresolved playing issues from Marsch’s time.

Once again, Armas had the starting eleven slow down the press.  When asked about it, he said it was to increase possession, which may have worked against DC United and Ben Olsen, but last night showed why you don’t slow down against Bob Bradley.  LAFC had a higher possession rate and a slightly better passing accuracy.  If not for every Red Bull swarming players to force a turnover, LAFC would have scored in the first half.

The second half saw a quicker pace from the Red Bulls, even though LAFC still managed more possession of the ball.  The fast rate of play allowed RBNY to force more turnovers and stay mostly on the opposing team’s side of the field.  Their passing rate in the attacking half and final third left LAFC in the rearview mirror.

There were still big signs of where the team needs to improve.  The Red Bulls have a good backline, with a strong central back pairing, yet they are still the team’s weak link.  The lone LAFC goal wasn’t some unavoidable wonder goal.  Diego Rossi was being marked by Michael Murillo, who was doing everything he could to prevent the player from reaching the ball.  The other three defenders, especially Tim Parker, did little to cover the gap between Carlos Vela and the 18-yard box.  Instead of keeping Adama Diomande between himself and Aaron Long, Parker stayed on Dio’s left rather than switching to his right.  The switch would have allowed Murillo to hang back behind Rossi with a potential offside call.

Now, I know I’m not a professional head coach of a Major League Soccer team — I’m not even a simple, country lawyer — it’s just that I can’t help feeling these defensive errors need to be addressed more than the rate of possession.

In the end, the team won because they’re so darn efficient when they have the ball.  Royer’s first-half goal actually was one of those wonder goals that come out of nowhere.  Kaku crossed the ball to an empty patch of field where Murillo hustled to meet and kick it at goal, only to have it deflect off the keeper and onto the right foot of Royer as he was laying on the grass.  That was well-prepared timing and dumb luck.

Royer’s second goal was something a bit more rehearsed.  A ball kicked from the back to Bradley Wright-Phillips in the attacking third found him onside.  LAFC, thinking he would take the shot on goal, rushed to get themselves between him and the net.  BWP instead arced the ball over the grass to Royer who was able to knock the ball in past a diving Tyler Miller.

Armas made good substitutions, keeping two of them like-for-like with the third, Connor Lade for Kaku, building the defense to keep the winning scoreline.  Derrick Etienne, Jr., however, continued to struggle on the ball and seems to be having trouble finding a stable footing in the squad.


It’s not easy to go from employee to boss, but I think Chris Armas is starting to become comfortable in his new role.  The team also seems to be responding well to his leadership.  And the fans always expected and supported him as the new head coach.  It’ll be interesting to see if it’s enough to bump the team into the playoffs.

Featured image: @NewYorkRedBulls

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