The New York Red Bulls are hoping last week’s hard-fought point taken from the match against Toronto FC is the start of the process of digging themselves out of the hole they dug with their three-game losing streak over the first two weeks of May.
But they are still in a battle to stay above the red line in the standings that separates the playoff-bound teams from the also-rans. It is still early enough in the season that lost ground can be made up, but there is a fine line between pacing yourself for a sprint finish and a panic-stricken dash to recover position in time for the post-season.
To stay on the right side of that line, the Red Bulls want to stay ahead of opponents like the New England Revolution, currently one point behind them in the Eastern Conference and ready to leap-frog over RBNY and into the playoff places. that Red Playoff line in the standings.
It looks like everything has been clicking for the New England club, but the Red Bulls are focused on keeping the Revolution quiet at Red Bull Arena.
“I think we just have to command the game I think for the most part when we have the Revs at home, we always controlled the game at home and we always get the results at home and keep that going against them,” said Sacha Kljestan, speaking to reporters at the RBNY Training Facility this week. “I think the important part of this game is to push them back and try to keep possession, but we know they have a lot of talented attackers.”
Juan Agudelo has looked like the player this club thought it had a long time ago, before shipping him out. The RBNY Academy product has six goals so far this season and should have a lot more by the end of the year. But Agudelo is just coming off an injury and might be penciled in for the bench for this game.
The Revs midfield has been exceptional as well. Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez are potentially a standout attacking midfield duo in MLS and it looks like head coach Jay Heaps has finally got those two playing on the same page.
“We know they can hurt us on the counter and on set pieces. it should be a good battle but we need a result, especially facing those two guys in their midfield,” said RBNY head coach Jesse Marsch.“They scored 20 goals and we only scored 12 and we have been a very high scoring team so we know they are dangerous. The key is that they get out at the break, when they create turnovers in the midfield and they can release Nguyen, Fagundez, Agudelo & Kamara. Those are real good players - we have to manage our players and manage our possession and our tactics, and make sure we are always on the alert when they catch us on the counter.”
The Red Bulls have been making tactical adjustments throughout their stuttering start to 2017. The latest move saw the team forego its usual two-man defensive midfield, asking Felipe to shield the back line while Fredrik Gulbrandsen paired with Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. It worked pretty well for 45 minutes against Toronto FC, and perhaps it will get another airing against the Revs.
While the Red Bulls have been laboring in MLS, Homegrown Tyler Adams has been winning a lot of praise for his work for the USA at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. He had a major role in his team’s 1-0 win over Senegal in mid-week, and Jesse Marsch has not let the time difference between Korea and New Jersey prevent him from keeping an eye on RBNY’s prized midfield prospect.
“He hasn’t scored a goal yet and [Josh] Sargent had already two goals in the first game, but I thought Tyler was really good in the first game and this morning I had a big smile on my face watching him going after the game and play brave against a strong Senegal team and never back down,” said Marsch, “Cover ground, help put plays together and defend and lead his team: he’s a leader out there. It’s amazing to watch, to see him be a true leader on that team. Everyone senses Tyler’s uniqueness and we are excited and I know he will be coming back from this tournament with a lot more confidence.”
Hopefully, he’ll be coming back to find RBNY has a lot more confidence too. There are always improvements a team can make, but they are easier to address when the goals and points are flowing.
We here at Once a Metro would like to wish all of our readers a very happy Memorial Day Weekend, and we hope the Red Bulls make themselves part of it with a positive result against the Revolution.