Anatole Abang is an 18-year-old striker who was discovered by the New York Red Bulls while playing for Rainbow FC in Cameroon. Since his signing in March, Abang has been bouncing around between the first team and NYRB II to get more playing time.
Abang has been quite the sensation for the New York Red Bull's USL side, scoring 4 goals for the club In 5 appearances, all starts. Despite this he has only played only 28 minutes in 7 appearances for the MLS side. It is safe to say the young striker hasn't been given the opportunity to show MLS his value.
With Sal Zizzo injured and Peguy Luyindula retired, New York is two attacking options shy of what they had at the start of the season. It is with that, and few other options, Jesse Marsch and company are considering the idea of a new attacking formation with Abang's name leading it.
When asked about what it would take to see Abang's name in the starting lineup, Jesse Marsch gave an answer after June 2nd's practice that raises a few eyebrows:
"Believe me, we considered it in this game. We obviously put him in at the very end but, you know he has made a lot of progress around here. We see all of his good qualities. He's making it hard for me as a coach to not put him on the field. But its just trying to look at different games and what they're like and then, how to, figure out how to factor him in. So, we've talked a little bit about playing him a little bit higher and dropping Bradley a little bit deeper or you know, playing almost like the two of them with Bradley coming underneath. You know so, he's continuing to impress in training everyday and in turn, I think will make it hard for us as coaches not to play him. So, he's done well."
Despite sticking with the 4-2-3-1 all season, we could be seeing a new formation for the New York Red Bulls. Or... if not a new formation, then at least the opportunity to see Anatole Abang for more than a handful of minutes at the end of a match. According to Marsch, it seems that Abang would not pair with Wright Phillips alongside in a dual striker role, but playing BWP behind him.
Anatole Abang has been splendid for NYRB II and his work there as well as on the training grounds are finally being noticed. This isn't the first time Jesse Marsch has been asked about the young striker, yet it is the first time we have an official statement about talks of a plan with Abang's name in it. With less than a week of rest until the Red Bulls' match against Houston, Marsch may look to give Mike Grella and others a period of rest and start Abang.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I personally love the idea of giving Abang minutes on the pitch. Rather, not in the way described by Marsch. Instead, I would prefer to see Anatole Abang and Bradley Wright-Phillips playing side-by-side up top, with Kljestan playing in place of Grella as he did against the New England Revolution. This would relieve Wright-Phillips of the high pressure task of being a holding striker and of course give Abang a chance to prove himself. Anatole Abang has been such a joy to watch in NYRB II games, and he deserves more minutes with the first team. Though at the moment, I don't believe Anatole Abang will be a starter, I can however see him being subbed on at half to replace Mike Grella.
If Abang does however become a starter for this team, a lineup and formation such as the one below is something I get excited about.