In case you've been living under a rock, the New York Red Bulls are playing New York City FC at Red Bull Arena today. Although the Red Bulls have a better team and record than the blue team, they still need to be ready for an opponent with a few interesting wrinkles in their attack.
Here's what they need to do to win.
Be wary of the counter
New York City FC is always looking to counter. As soon as they gain possession (or even slightly before), multiple midfielders start sprinting up the field. And not only do they get high up the field, but they're spread out.
Seattle got a lot of defenders back on this Mehdi Ballouchy goal, but a four-man counter is larger than your typical rush. Mehdi Ballouchy had space to shoot and even had a passing option available to Khiry Shelton. Since the Red Bulls employ a high press, there are probably going to be a lot of 3 v 4 and 4 v 5 opportunities for NYCFC today.
It'd be preferable if Dax McCarty didn't venture forward to much and stayed in front of the center backs. The Red Bulls' defense (which utilizes fullbacks in the attack) is going to need midfield help stopping the counter.
Watch David Villa
This one is fairly obvious. Jason Kreis remarked that the Spanish designated player is back from his injury and will play 90 minutes. Villa is a very good player. He moves around a lot and knows how to find space. The center backs (some combination of Damien Perrinelle, Matt Miazga, and Ronald Zubar) will have to be focused on him and I won't be surprised if Marsch employs man marking on him.
Maintain high pressure and attack
The New York City FC defense is not good. They don't stop the ball, they don't track runners, and they frequently give the ball away. The Seattle Sounders were able to cruise to victory abusing NYCFC's defenders and taking advantage of bad giveaways in the attacking third. And since NYCFC is always looking to push midfielders up the field and attack as soon as possible, they don't have a lot of men behind the ball after bad giveaways by defenders. The Red Bulls high pressure should reap great benefits today considering NYCFC's propensity to give the ball away. The space will be available all over the field. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam have the speed and dribbling ability to create room for themselves and should have a good day.
Even worse for the blue team is defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe is suspended for the match. The Red Bulls look primed for a multi-goal game.
Stop Mehdi Ballouchy (and Mix Diskerud)
What? That guy? From the Backe years?
Yes, that Mehdi Ballouchy. Surprisingly he's having a good season for NYCFC.
Mehdi Ballouchy is #NYCFC's leading playmaker, creating 13 chances from his 6 appearances (average of 2.17 per game).— Empire Blues (@EmpireBluesNY) May 9, 2015
Ballouchy also has a conversion rate of 33%, ranking among the top ten players to have scored multiple goals so far this season.— Empire Blues (@EmpireBluesNY) May 9, 2015
There aren't a lot of creators on NYCFC beyond Ballouchy and Mix Diskerud. If they Red Bulls can smother these two and win the midfield battle (Felipe and Kljestan have been consistently winning the passing percentage and interception battle), then the NYCFC attack should be toothless.
NYCFC isn't having a good year, but they are generating a lot of opportunities.
The Red Bulls have scored 12 goals this season on 120 shots and 42 shots on goal.
NYCFC has scored 6 goals this season on 123 shots and 42 shots on goal.
They create just as much as the Red Bulls, they're just not converting. Eventually that's going to change and hopefully that isn't today.
NYCFC is going to get their opportunities on the counter and take few shots generated by possession around the box. As usual, Luis Robles will be relied upon to make a few big saves.