The New York Red Bulls are finally catching a good run of form. A convincing 5-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes was met with jubilation and praise for a new formation. The 3-6-1 the Red Bulls now deploy has been a big part of the four match winning streak by New York, and it seems to be all the rage in the team.
Sean Davis, scorer of the opening goal in Wednesday’s win over the Quakes, said, “It’s a formation that puts a lot of guys in a position to succeed, and I'm definitely one of those guys.”
Not only is Davis allowed to roam freely in his new role, but he is also allowed to get forward more due to Felipe playing in a more defensive position. This lets Davis show his true ability in the final third and what ultimately helped him grab his first goal of the season.
Despite not making a new signing yet, most Red Bulls fans felt like they got a new player when midfielder Sacha Kljestan returned to his old form. Grabbing a goal and two assists, Kljestan completely bossed the game and looked much like he did for a majority of last year.
Commenting on the formation and why it has worked, Kljestan said, “It’s nice having a little more help, being able to build out of the midfield…if i come deep to get the ball, we have two other attacking mids that can float and move around as well.”
The pressure to always be the creator has been slightly lifted off the shoulders of Kljestan, who did lead the league in assists the previous year. This allows him to not feel the need to force a pass every time he has the ball at his feet. He can play more relaxed and even play a one-two if needed, allowing him to open up more space for others to create or run in behind.
Head coach Jesse Marsch clearly liked the formation, sticking with it for the past four matches. One of the main things he focused on was the versatility it allowed the squad. “So there's still, when I say flexibility, there is flexibility. We're putting guys in positions to plug in their strengths and I think we can do that by rotating a lot of different things.”
Staying flexible is a huge part of any coaching job, but at the Red Bulls especially. Players like Kljestan and recently Kemar Lawrence could be called to their respective national teams and injuries are always a concern. Being able to slot in a number of different players at certain positions makes Marsch’s life a lot easier during team selection. He is able to confidently fill gaps in his squad and not have to worry about a player under performing or being in an unfamiliar position.
As any coach would say, though, Marsch added, “But, you know, I think it was very good, and we're moving in the right direction. But I still believe there is plenty of room for improvement.”
Always looking to add, remove or just alter an aspect of the team is something that puts Marsch and other coaches in the league on top. Knowing that one thing they did against San Jose might not work against Minnesota could mean the difference between an embarrassing loss and a decisive win.
Going into the match against Minnesota United, Marsch knows that no match in MLS is to be taken for granted. “So, Minnesota's still not been easy to beat at home in the last couple months, and you know, we'll have to go on turf. It will be a hot day. It will challenge us in a lot of different way”.
Marsch knows it will be a hard fought match from start to finish and should expect to make at least a few changes from Wednesday’s victory. The team looked very convincing in the second half and will hope to continue their form in Minneapolis. A win would mean five in a row for New York, pushing them up into fourth place in the table. It seems to be all falling into place for the Red Bulls at just the right time.