After the match against the Columbus Crew, Red Bulls fans were up in arms. A complete disaster in the first half saw the team down 3-0 after just 31 minutes.
Poor defense, silly mistakes, and an inexcusable play by Michael Murillo saw Chris Armas’ plans go out the window rather quickly. The convoluted system he tried out just did not work, despite his efforts to fix it in the second half.
The Red Bulls scored two goals of their own, but ultimately fell 3-2 at the full time whistle. One player that undeservedly took criticism after the match was Derrick Etienne.
Etienne was the lone striker on the field for the first half. He was tasked with getting in behind the Crew defense and creating chances for his team. This does not play to his strengths, and it was clearly not going well for the Haitian.
He plays much better when either out wide or paired with BWP, of which the latter happened at the start of the second half.
Sticking Etienne up top by himself was a rough mistake for Armas to make, but one that he can build on. Pairing Etienne up top with Daniel Royer is a possible solution for Armas should he return to a similar line up.
Nevertheless, the Red Bulls loss puts them three points back on NYCFC and seven back from first place Atlanta United. Now, they need to prepare for the potent Los Angeles FC team for the first time.
LAFC have had a phenomenal year so far. The team is electric in attack and boasts a frightening defense in the back.
Ex-Hull City striker Adama Diomande, or Dio for short, has been a revelation for the club. In just under 700 total minutes played, Dio has scored nine goals and assisted three.
With a host of players to set him up, including Benny Feilhaber and Latif Blessing, Dio is a danger to the Red Bulls defense. If they are anything like they were against the Crew, New York could be in for a long night.
The Red Bulls also need to break down Walker Zimmerman and Laurent Ciman at the back. The duo has had their moments this season, but recent struggles are pointing in the right direction for the Red Bulls.
A dangerous duo up top seems to cause problems for LAFC, with both Minnesota and the Galaxy starting with two strikers in attack. Despite his lack of production last match, this should be the perfect time for Armas to start Etienne next to BWP.
While Wright-Phillips plays hold up man, Etienne can continue his run in behind the LAFC defense to keep the defense moving and thinking. Adding Royer out wide will increase the potential potency of the Red Bulls attack, making life for Zimmerman and company quite difficult.
It is very likely that Armas will revert back to the well known 4231 the Red Bulls usually line up in. The plan with Etienne still stands, though, as he would start on the right side with Royer on the left and Kaku up the middle.
Since LAFC prefer the traditional 433 style, winning the midfield battle will be key for both teams. Tyler Adams and Sean Davis will have their hands full as they try to cut out passes to the wide men of LAFC.
Pressuring LA deep in their own half could be risky, as both Latif Blessing and Carlos Vela have quite a bit of pace. A simple ball over the top could cause problems, so the defense needs to be alert at all times.
This is such a tough match to call considering the form of both teams. LAFC have lost just twice in MLS since June 1st while the Red Bulls could be completely hot or utterly cold in the same week.
Both teams are in third in their conference, but LAFC is in a much more vulnerable spot than the Red Bulls are. With road form being so important in MLS, a point would be more than enough for Bob Bradley’s side to take away from this match.
The Red Bulls cannot be content with anything less than a win, especially considering their latest result. Three points will not be easy, but it is much needed on their journey to the top.