The New York Red Bulls' last game threw up a lot of issues, but the team doesn't have a lot of time to address them: on Wednesday, RBNY will host Orlando City, the third and final regular season meeting for the two teams.
Most of the problems highlighted by the match against the Portland Timbers revolve around the attack. The team is still getting stifled in the final third by opponents willing and able to play compact, counter-attacking soccer. Better execution of the existing game plans or fresh ideas are clearly needed. But RBNY is also now forced to think about issues on the back line.
Gideon Baah is done for the season, out with a broken right tibia sustained while playing the Timbers. He will be out four to five months. It is great and unexpectedly timely news, of course, that Damien Perrinelle has returned to the line up after a long rehab from a torn ACL, but Baah's injury is still a devastating blow to Jesse Marsch and the club.
"He has the same injury as Chris Duvall had last year, we feel very awful for Gideon and it pains us to see him hurt like this," said Jesse Marsch, "but we are with him and we've got good surgeons that we know he will be taken care of and as a team we need this group to come together as a whole."
The team has options, including signing players from its USL team - like Aaron Long, Tim Schmoll or Zach Carroll (who was recently cut by RBNY and re-signed to the USL squad). The Red Bulls could look to the transfer window also. But for now, any sense of further injury crisis is alleviated by the fact Perrinelle is back and has made it through most of a competitive game in MLS looking like the top performer he was when he went down injured last year.
The more immediate matter at hand is Orlando City, arriving at Red Bull Arena with its own problems. Former head coach Adrian Heath was let go after OCSC's loss in the 5th round of the US Open Cup to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers was followed by a 4-0 blowout by FC Dallas. Since then, the team has picked up a scoreless draw with Houston Dynamo.
Aurelien Collin is ready to see his former side again, though Orlando's current troubles and the abrupt departure of his former coach give him no pleasure: "I felt sorry and sad for him. I think the objective of the club which is a very big club with big players and their goals are very big. That's why I believe they let go of (Adrian) Heath." said Collin, "I wish him the best for his career and I hope the next one is going to come and do things differently and I hope the club has success."
Bobby Murphy is the current interim manager. It is unclear whether Orlando City will bring a new coach in quickly, or allow Murphy to use the rest of the season as an audition. But Jesse Marsch knows that with a new man at the helm this match could get tricky for the Red Bulls.
"There's two ways of looking at it. There is renewed vigor and I think players are excited to prove themselves to a new coach in a new situation. But there has been hardship so that's why the coach was let go. You have to be ready for a dangerous team and if we allow Orlando to have a good start and get going, they can use this game to turn around their season. So in all ways we need to be ready for them to throw everything at us."
OCSC has handled the challenge of RBNY at Red Bull Arena pretty well in the two-game history of this particular fixture. The team beat the Red Bulls 5-2 on its first visit to RBA - an eye-opening experience for the eventual Supporters' Shield winners. And in April, RBNY won by the odd goal in five. We will see if Murphy sticks to the relatively successful scripts Heath drew up for handling the Red Bulls in Harrison. And we'll see if Cyle Larin, Kaka & Kevin Molino can combine to create to more challenges for RBNY's fragile back line.