The New York Red Bulls had another one of those games against the Chicago Fire. Plenty of chances, a handful of shots off the post, but no end result. It was the kind of game that made the fans at Red Bull Arena want to pull their hair out.
The Red Bulls were unable to recover after conceding in the first half. A belter of a goal scored by Aleksandra Katai shook the stadium as the Serbian struck a phenomenal volley into the top corner of the net. Luis Robles also took down Katai in the box later on in the second half, leading to a penalty conversion by Nemanja Nikolic.
A late Bradley Wright-Phillips tap in was not enough, and a 2-1 loss at home stung the team. The incredibly rare home defeat came as a shock, but the team will have no time to wallow in their misfortune as they need to travel to take on the LA Galaxy.
Daniel Royer did play a lot better against the Fire, getting his fair share of scoring chances. He very nearly scored a stinging side footed volley into the top corner, but the shot slammed off the corner of the post. His movement was much better than it has been in games past, and his play with Wright-Phillips was something to build upon.
The two could really do some damage against the Galaxy. BWP may not have had a very dominant match, but he still managed to get on the scoresheet. Sometimes, this is all the team needs, and the match against the Galaxy will be no different. A goal for either player early on would force the Galaxy to open up from their recently favored 442.
There is no surprise who Jesse Marsch and the Red Bulls need to worry about the most. Marsch told reporters after Tuesday’s practice, “...obviously with Ibrahimovic that means that he is always a threat and keeping tracking of him especially in the box will be important”.
This is one of the biggest problems with a man as talented as Ibrahimovic. He can go 70, 80, or even 88 minutes without doing much, seemingly walking around and just taking up space. But he only needs three seconds to bring a ball down and strike it into the net to remind the opposing team just how lethal he is. Tracking him at every moment will be taxing for Aaron Long and the defense, as Tyler Adams will be called in to help whenever possible.
The 2-0 loss to Atlanta United a week ago shows that the LA Galaxy are more than beatable, even with Zlatan on the team. The Galaxy struggled with shutting down the quick attacks from Atlanta as Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez were at it again, scoring a goal a piece. This could be the Red Bulls key to victory against the Galaxy, and Marsch should be ready to take his chances.
Derrick Etienne Jr. would do well in this type of match, as his pace on the wings next to Wright-Phillips and opposite Royer would create a ton of problems for the Galaxy defense. Ashley Cole may be vastly experienced, but at 37, he is not exactly lightning in a bottle. A constant swapping of wings during the match would create confusion as the Red Bulls pressed hard and hit LA on the counter attack.
Traveling to Los Angeles a week before the Hudson River Derby will be taxing for the team, but three points would shoot the Red Bulls up into fourth place. Considering they focused on the CONCACAF Champions League so heavily, this is not a bad spot to be in. Fans should not be disappointed with a draw either, but the Galaxy have already proven this season they are beatable at the StubHub Center.
The Red Bulls have showed that an early goal gives them a ton of confidence, Wins against Montreal, Portland and Minnesota all saw the Red Bulls score early, so BWP and his strike force need to press hard from the start. Zlatan may be the main focus in this match for the neutrals, but a potent Red Bulls counter attack could easily steal the show.