Another day, another New York Red Bulls match. The team is ready to host the Seattle Sounders at Red Bull Arena as they continue their jam packed schedule. It is the teams fourth match since the beginning of June, with another Open Cup match just three days after.
Jesse Marsch has managed his team well during this stretch despite the limited player selection he has had to deal with. International duty and injuries have hit this team at a rough time, but a bit of tinkering has made the squad look as good as new.
One savior for Marsch has been young central defender Hassan Ndam. His play in the absence of Tim Parker has been notable and an incredibly comforting sight in the eyes of the Red Bulls faithful. Aurelien Collin has been tough to watch, so having the youthful speed and ability of Ndam in the team is big for the team moving forward.
The forwards in the team that started so bright have been bleak in recent weeks. The outlier has been the 4-0 destruction of NYCFC in the Open Cup, which unfortunately did not translate to offense in MLS.
The Red Bulls have scored just two goals in their last three MLS matches. This is very out of character for the same Red Bulls team that has scored 28 goals up to this point in the season.
A problem on offense could very well be linked to the absence of Tyler Adams in the midfield. Adams has been with the US National team and has left a hole in the center of the park that Sean Davis can only fill so much of.
The pressing game that Adams brings to this Red Bulls team is one of the main reasons they are so dangerous. His unlimited stamina allows for him to run for 90 minutes, winning the ball high up the field to create quick and decisive chances. He will be a welcomed sight in the midfield should he start against Seattle.
Injury problems have destroyed the Sounders this season. Multiple players have been out for weeks, making it that much harder for Brian Schmetzer to get some chemistry forming in his team. The inconsistency has been evident in their teams results. The team sits in 10th in the Western Conference, just three points from the bottom.
The defensive record of Seattle does not reflect that of a team that is doing so poorly. They are tied for the second best defense in MLS, tied with the Red Bulls on just 15 goals allowed. Defense has not been the problem for Schmetzer’s team this season.
Offensive production is the glaring issue in Seattle. Just seven players have scored goals for the Sounders this year, with Will Bruin being the only player to score more than one goal so far.
They are the only team in MLS with a single digit in the goals scored column, netting just nine times. The lack of production from all attacking players cannot be anymore obvious, and with big names still on the team sheet, it seems to be only a matter of time before they break out of their mold.
Clint Dempsey has been a shell of his former self this year. The 35 year old has not done much to help the team recently, and his 90 minute performances seem to drag on. The most production he had came in a 30 minute substitute appearance where he grabbed an assist. Limiting Dempsey’s minutes may be the answer to his problems.
The names of Bruin, Dempsey, and Nicolas Lodeiro still fill the roster sheet at Seattle. All three of these players are capable of changing a match in an instant. The Red Bulls cannot head into this match thinking they can steamroll Seattle just due to their form, and Marsch knows it.
“I think for us to expect anything less than their best would be foolish”, Marsch told reporters after Tuesday’s practice.
A run of bad form happens to all teams. The good ones are strong enough to take it on the chin and keep moving forward. Seattle may be struggling, but with plenty of matches left, a run of good form can shoot them into the playoffs.
That means the Red Bulls cannot get caught in the wrong mindset against Seattle. Quick starts have been instrumental to the teams success this season, and an early goal against the Sounders will be just what Marsch ordered. It should be a great contest, but the Red Bulls need to come out with all three points.