One to forget. A disaster. Same old Metro. Most of the knee jerk reactions that came after the whistle of the 3-0 defeat to Atlanta United sounded similar to these outbursts.
Yes, the team played nowhere near the level of intensity and skill level that they have played all season, let alone against Atlanta the past two meetings. However, the problems are something that Chris Armas now has to accept, focus on, and solve for the second leg.
Heaps of blame is being tossed on the left side of the pitch specifically, as Kemar Lawrence missed the match due to injury. Connor Lade was completely overrun while he filled in at left fullback, getting beat for pace numerous times.
One solution being thrown around is sticking Tyler Adams to the left side to combat the overloads in that area. As this could be his last match ever in a New York Red Bulls kit, it would be tough to see, but also understandable.
Coming back from a 3-0 scoreline does not really give the team much room to be comfortable. Players will need to play out of position and with an extra level of intensity to give them the chance they need to advance.
The old adage of “if they can scored three, why can’t we?” has been tossed around Red Bull supporters groups since the final whistle, and it could not be more true in this situation. Just last round, the Red Bulls scored three against the Columbus Crew at Red Bull Arena to advance.
The only difference is that Atlanta will be going to Red Bull Arena knowing how hostile and advantageous the environment can be, so a back five would not be surprising at all. It would still allow Josef Martinez to play up top and give Atlanta plenty of chance to counter.
This counter was finally effective against the Red Bulls after four past failed attempts to beat them. Martinez got the monkey off his back and scored against Luis Robles, while the middle of the pitch was dominated by the dynamic passing of the Atlanta front men.
Even the one glimmer of hope was wiped out by VAR, correctly calling the Red Bulls only goal offside and erasing their away goal. Bradley Wright Phillips seemed like the only one energized by the chance, as all other heads dropped the second the referee waved off the goal.
Armas will have the immensely tough task of energizing and instilling belief in his men for this second leg. The Red Bulls media and supporters are certainly doing their bit, going as far as saying “Do not even show up if you don’t think we can win”.
The never say die attitude really has been prevalent this season, and for a team that has fought with every bone in their body each and every match, there is no reason why they should not come out firing on all cylinders against Atlanta.
Franco Escobar was the obvious man of the match in the 3-0 victory. His play down the left flank was destructive and was ultimately the Red Bulls downfall.
Statistically, Escobar had a bad year for Atlanta. He scored just once and did not record a single assist for his team. A deeper dive will show that Escobar led the team in average tackles per game while also being a complete fullback, influencing the match at both ends.
Shutting him down will likely be tasked to Tyler Adams, which means Marc Rzatkowski could come into midfield along with Tyler Adams. This would shut down more of the Atlanta attack while still keeping creativity in the Red Bulls team.
Alex Muyl could be the one that is sacrificed, as a 4312 formation seems like it would fit the team well. Kaku sitting in behind BWP and Daniel Royer could cause some problems for Atlanta’s defense.
All in all, this game will not be easy to watch as a Red Bulls supporter, no matter the result. Going in with confidence is the only way to give the team a chance. Red Bull Arena will be rocking with high hopes, so it is up to Armas and the team to deliver a strong gameplan for at least a chance at success.