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RalfBall Pushes Players to be Creative

In which we look at another aspect of the RalfBall philosophy driving Red Bull soccer.

Boris Streubel/Getty Images

As my colleague Huan Nguyen wrote earlier on the topic of Ralfball, the Red Bulls have employed a new philosophy largely written by Ralf Ragnick, "the sporting director of all Red Bull football" (says Jesse Marsch, who might have inside information on these matters).

The basic point of RalfBall is to play aggressive, attacking, and attractive football. Its key characteristics are well captured by words like "uptempo" and phrases such as 'high pressing". There is however, an underlying factor that may have flown under the radar a little in the initial analysis of the new football philosophy: creative, often unorthodox, ideas are welcome on the field.

This trait is not as apparent, because it acts more like common law than formal statute.

By common law I mean it in the English sense of the phrase: the unwritten, but acknowledged rules. Lately, we've been seeing the encouragement of a bit of creativity from the players, to make the style of play less rigid. The fluidity of play is made possible by the permission - even encouragement - given to players to make plays that, based on their soccer intelligence have deemed the most applicable at the time. Try stuff, it's OK.

RB Leipzig has been caught employing its own creativity, and because this maneouver was so far from the recommendations of the general game-play book, Stuttgart II had no idea how to react:

It was as hilarious as it was impressive, and they recently continued their odd tactics with this freekick:

Hat tip to Marcel Tretbar.

Here is another view of the same routine:

Those moves were clearly rehearsed on the training ground (unless Leipzig's players have the astonishing ability to spontaneously coordinate a set play). The New York Red Bulls also have their own little tricks up their sleeves. This move was reportedly not rehearsed, but it is recognizably born of the same "keep 'em guessing, catch 'em cold" philosophy as the Leipzig examples above:

Legal or not, it was a pretty cool move by RBNY. Although the team is not mimicking the cheeky routines of its Leipzig counterpart, it seems clear there is a common thread in the approach to the game deployed by Red Bull soccer on both sides of the Atlantic: stick to the plan, but have some fun while you're out there.

Creativity - opportunistic or rehearsed - is encouraged by RalfBall. Trick Corner