In their match against the Seattle Sounders, the New York Red Bulls were whistled for 19 fouls to the Sounders 9. This includes a few questionable calls and no-calls. Sigi Schmid, the head coach of the Sounders, had this to say about the Red Bulls' foul count:
It's a product of their pressing style, but it is also that school of soccer where [Jesse] Marsch comes from: you commit tackles and fouls in the midfield to slow the opponent down. You look at a lot of tactical calls in the midfield that were called. There was one happened in almost our end of the field and the referee doesn't yellow card the guy, but it is like if he didn't foul that guy it is three vs. three, and their ability recognize that. Part of it is their aggressive style as far as pressing, but part of it is their awareness of doing those kind of fouls to make sure the game slows down at the right time. Their style - D.C. United is very similar in that regard, Sporting KC is very similar in that regard.
We here at Once a Metro decided to look into the stats to see how true Sigi's statement is. The verdict: not very when you consider the whole season.
In 2015, the Red Bulls are near the bottom of the league in fouls committed. They have been called for 156 fouls in 12 games (13 per game). If we subtract the 19 fouls called against Seattle, that's 137 in 11 games (12.45 per game).
|Opponent||Home/Away||FS||FC||Difference (FS - FC)|
|Sporting Kansas City||Away||10||17||-7|
|Columbus Crew SC||Away||18||12||6|
|San Jose Earthquakes||Home||14||11||3|
|New England Revolution||Away||20||9||11|
|New York City FC||Home||13||11||2|
|Total before Seattle||169||136||33|
As you can see, in 7 of 12 games this year, the Red Bulls opponent is the one who has been the aggressor. Only in two matches (Sporting Kansas City in Week 1, and Seattle this week) have the Red Bulls been called for at least 5 more fouls than their opponent. They committed an average of 13 fouls per road match until the Seattle match, and an average of 12.3 in all matches before Sunday. The 19-9 foul difference seem to be an anomaly, and not the norm in 2015.
For the sake of comparison, the Sounders have committed 152 fouls in 13 matches. That's an average of 11.69 fouls per match. Before Sunday, it was 143 fouls in 12 matches (11.9 per match). The Red Bulls were called for nearly 7 more than their average before Sunday, while the Sounders were called for 3 less than their average. And despite those deviations from their respective norms, RBNY still only averages 1.3 more fouls-commited-per-game than Seattle (13 per game for the Red Bulls; 11.7 for the Sounders).
History (albeit a small sample size) says that RBNY's high press isn't causing an abnormally high number of fouls. As an example, the LA Galaxy, with 15 matches played, leads the league with 202 Fouls Committed. The Red Bulls would need to rack up more than 15 fouls per game for the next three matches to reach the same level; to date, they've exceeded 15 fouls in just three games all season.
Most likely, Sunday was the result of a referee who felt a little pressure from an intimidating home crowd, and gave in (probably unknowingly), being harder on the Red Bulls. This isn't a conspiracy theory: RBNY has only outfouled its opponent at Red Bull Arena once in 2015 to date - and that was the game against Philadelphia; incidentally, the team's first home loss of the season.
Whatever the reason for the foul count when they met in Week 13, the Sounders and RBNY are not so different if you measure playing style by fouls committed. Schmid is an experienced coach, and he knows more about soccer than most. He has a trophy-laden career because he knows how to analyze the game and spot an opponent's tendencies. But in this case, perhaps his apparent insight into the Red Bulls is derived from a much simpler fact: it takes one to know one.