A week after earning a point on the road against one of the league's toughest teams, the New York Red Bulls have suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Union.
The Red Bulls started the game by controlling possession and pressing high up the pitch as usual, with Bradley Wright-Phillips working hard up top to force turnovers. Despite this, Philly almost opened the scoring in the 14th minute, thanks to a poor pass from Roy Miller. Only a point blank save from Luis Robles spared him some embarrassment.
New York continued to dominate, with Mike Grella and Felipe Martins both hitting the post. Neither team was able to break the deadlock going into the half, but the Red Bulls were clearly the dominant side with a possession stat of 65%-35% in their favor.
The second half would be a completely different story. C.J. Sapong would come on for Connor Casey in the 54th minute, with the pacier Sapong immediately finding space behind RBNY's overlapping full backs. Three minutes later, the Union would open the scoring thanks to a cheeky finish by Vincent Nogueira. They would strike again in the 62nd minute, this time through Sapong.
Jesse Marsch would make the switch to a 3-5-2 later on, bringing on Anatole Abang as the second striker, but it proved to be too little, too late.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">we just got <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Doop?src=hash">#Doop</a> 'd. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RBNY?src=hash">#RBNY</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NYvPHI?src=hash">#NYvPHI</a></p>— Jared Kaczynski (@KD2DAS) <a href="https://twitter.com/KD2DAS/status/602609138510798848">May 24, 2015</a></blockquote>
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One of the few bright spots this game, Grella's confidence has grown significantly since Week 1. Showing some nifty footwork, the former Duke player is starting to show exactly why the team signed him. Given the lack of naturally left-sided midfielders on the roster, this bodes well for the future.
While the Englishman has been nothing short of superb this season, he didn't look the same today. During the second half in particular, Sam was playing centrally, cutting inside, while occasionally looking like a second striker. Sam is at his best when he is playing as a traditional winger, getting chalk on his cleats and taking on his man. Whether or not it was Marsch's plan for Sam to tuck in so close to the center mids, he should realize that his most lethal wide threat was utilized incorrectly today.
The High Press
While the high press has been effective in deploying the 4-2-3-1 early in the season, other teams are starting to make adjustments to counter this system. The Red Bulls are particularly vulnerable on the counter, as a consequence of the full backs always overlapping. Although Felipe is deployed as a defensive mid, his tendency to push forward further isolates the center backs and Dax.