The Red Bulls are preparing for their third game of the year against New York City FC. RBNY took the first victory in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, but Patrick Vieira’s side claimed three points just days later in a heated MLS match.
With two more Hudson River Derby matches in the month of August, it’s safe to say the Red Bulls and the Cityzens are getting pretty familiar with each other.
We invited Jake Gofman for a sitdown at Yankee Stadium for some Hebrew National hot dogs during a Yankees game and to discuss the upcoming soccer match at the baseball field:
Q1. Things have been rather quiet on the NYC FC front as far as transfers go this summer. Do you think this current roster is sufficient for a deep playoff run or do you expect another player to join the fray before the window closes?
My belief is that the team felt it had a sufficiently strong enough roster to make a deep Playoff run prior to the Gold Cup and since then things have gone very badly for the team on the injury front. Rodney Wallace, who has been key for us this year out wide on the left, remains out after suffering an injury playing with Costa Rica. Miguel Camargo, a versatile player that can give New York depth in various positions, had been lost for the season following a brutal hip fracture. Possibly most importantly, Maxine Chanot has missed several games now with osteitis pubis inflammation (look it up, it's not great) and his absence has destabilized our backline which was playing so well with him involved.
Add these three injuries to our existing unfit players (Ronald Matarrita, Khiry Shelton, James Sands) and the team is beginning to feel very strung out these days. To answer your question, as the team currently stands, I believe we do not have the depth we need to make a deep run. Matarrita is a very important player and it really hurts to have him out. In his place, the combination of Ethan White, Ben Sweat and RJ Allen split between the two fullback spots is a major weakness for the team and a position that should be addressed in this transfer window. Moreover, anyone who's watched Pirlo play the last few weeks can see that he needs to be locked in a closet very far away from a soccer field. Outside of Pirlo, the only other depth in the midfield is Mikey Lopez, and he is not the quality off the bench NYC will need to make a run.
My hope is that the recent injuries to important players will kickstart our transfer window and force some movement. As it stands now, NYC has a nice starting XI but that won't be enough to push them to an MLS Cup.
Q2. David Villa has two more years under contract and Jack Harrison has been getting serious looks from European teams. If you had to guess, who sticks around NYC FC longer: Jack Harrison or David Villa? And for how long?
Yeesh, I really don't like this question. Can't we just enjoy the nice things we have? So far the Jack Harrison to England talk is vague and speculative at best. Lots of rumors with no teams mentioned and no credible sources (par for transfer rumors these days). He's almost certainly staying in New York this season. However, if he continues to play at a high level and given his young age, he could be a target next summer.
David Villa has shown few signs of slowing down. In our 2-1 win against Chicago down a man that I attended, I couldn't help but think Villa looked even better than he did in his first season in MLS. He's now fully adapted to life in MLS, playing within the speed and physicality of the game. If there's been a half step lost from age, I haven't been able to spot it.
I think David Villa has two more seasons after this one in MLS, at least. He may find that life in MLS is great and go the Robbie Keane route, playing 3-5 seasons beyond this one. It's very hard to say given his MVP form over the last two seasons. So, if I have to choose, I'd say Jack is a little more likely to be gone because Villa will stay in New York for as long as he's productive, and that may be a pretty long time.
Q3. Yankee Stadium has been a fortress for NYC FC this year. What would be the best strategy for the Red Bulls to get their a rare road win or a first-ever NY-NYC draw there?
New York has finally capitalized on the silly dimensions of its home field and created a home field advantage for itself this season. The team has been very difficult to break down at home with the narrow pitch, and the aerial route employed successfully by many teams in prior seasons has been reduced greatly by the addition of Sean Johnson in goal and Alexander Callens at CB. Now that our set piece defense is above average, teams are finding it difficult to find goals. There was never any doubt New York could score on its home pitch, but now that it can defend it, the team is suddenly unbeatable at home.
To me, Red Bulls still employ the best strategy for beating New York: They are a pressing team by strategy (and not necessity or gimmick) and that frustrates NYC FC and forces errors. While we have dialed back the extent to which we require ourselves to play out of the back at all times, it is still our preferred method of pushing the ball up the field without having a big target forward to collect long balls. Red Bulls can exploit this, and if the press is working, force rushed clearances that turn possession over. The narrow confines of Yankee Stadium can be RBNY's ally just as it has been ours all season.
Predicted XI (4-3-3):
Johnson; Sweat, Brillant, Callens, White; Moralez, Herrera, Ring; Lewis, Villa, Harrison
Injuries: OUT - F Khiry Shelton, D Ronald Matarrita, M Miguel Camargo, D/M James Sands, M Rodney Wallace, D Maxime Chanot
International Duty: N/A