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How the Red Bulls lost the Columbus series

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Hint: it was not because of the high press

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The high press didn't work! Jesse Marsch has no Plan B! We won't ever win until we figure out how to adapt and change our plan!

Those are just a few things I have read in the days after the New York Red Bulls won a match but lost a series to Columbus Crew SC. Here's the thing, those statements are wrong.

The high press didn't work against Columbus, but it wasn't because of the system. Marsch didn't have a real Plan B, because based on evidence, we didn't need it. We won 18 games in the regular season, 2 in the playoffs, and 2 in Open Cup, and a famous mid-season friendly against Chlesea with the high press. We also scored a MLS high 62 goals in 2015. The real reasons that the team lost come down to two simple things: passing and substitutions.

Passing is simple, you have to complete them. The Red Bulls were poor at it when it mattered.

A flaw of this high pressure system is that the fullbacks are asked to join the attack, but putting the ball into the box. This leaves the center backs, and sometimes a defensive midfielder back to stop a counter if things break down. We've seen this before this year in losses to the Chicago Fire and Orlando City SC where the opponent was faster and broke through the first row of midfielders.

The system also requires players in the attacking half to do 2 things: keep possession, or get it back quickly. The Red Bulls' poor passing when they reached the Columbus penalty box led to issues. The poor passing at key times led to losing possession before getting a shot off. It also allowed Columbus to counter all day long with their quick attacking options. When you have to chase on the counter for most of the day from bad passing, it's not a good sign.

If this team was better passing the ball around the Columbus box, then they aren't facing the number of counters they did. They aren't running back at breakneck speed to cover Robles. They aren't getting tired and possibly disheartened from a lack of chances.

The team's poor passing was possibly the biggest factor in why this team failed in the series. It's not the only reason though, a close second was Jesse Marsch's game management. When did the Red Bulls look the most dangerous in this series? It was when Gonzalo Veron was on the field.

Mike Grella had an amazing year for this team, and should be back in 2016, but Veron was the better option in Leg 2. Veron is a more dynamic player than Grella, and should've started the second leg, or at the very least, been brought on in the first half when things weren't working. Down 2-0 in a must win game, you have to give yourself the best chance to win. Marsch stuck by his Starting XI, as coaches are sometimes want to do (calling Hans Backe), and by the time he made the change, it was too late.

Was the playoff exit a failure? From a single season point of view yes, but Marsch & company weren't playing just for this season. Marsch said as much in post match comments.

"I think there's a new direction. It's obvious to everyone with the way we play and the commitment of the organization. You can start with Mr. [Dietrich] Mateschitz but you can talk about Oliver Mintzlaff, Marc De Grandpre, Ali Curtis, myself, and down to the players, we're all united. We're all moving forward in the same direction. This is clearly something unique in our league with its own identity. We're in the initial stages. Our goal is to put ourselves in these kinds of games and situations every year, to grow every year, to invest in our youth and youth academy, and create something that has such a big identity that everyone in the community wants to attach themselves to it. The first year, in that sense, has been an overwhelming success. If we can make this kind of progress, year in and year out, we'll create something that I think can be really special."

The Red Bulls will come back next year stronger. They won't be learning a new system, and will improve on what's in place. For this year's playoff exit though, don't blame the system, blame the execution.