For the first time since February, the Red Bulls have won back to back matches. The two weeks following Valentines Day saw a 2-0 and 3-0 victory over CA Pantoja in the CONCACAF Champions League. This time, cupid was nowhere to be found, but the love was felt all around Red Bull Arena.
Zlatan and the Galaxy were in fine form, especially in the last 30 minutes of the first half. Zlatan assisted and scored a goal in the span of four minutes, completely tearing apart the Red Bulls defense.
Fortunately for the Red Bulls, a first half finish from Amro Tarek kept them in it going in to half time. Two second half substitutions sparked the eventual comeback by Armas’ men, as Omir Fernandez and Derrick Etienne came on for Alex Muyl and Tarek.
Goals from Marc Rzatkowski and Etienne rounded out the thrilling 3-2 win by the Red Bulls, capping off an early contender for most exciting match at Red Bull Arena. Credit needs to be given to Armas, too, who came out in a new, more defensive system.
The 541 the Red Bulls lined up in really showed its true colors until the 54th minute. Before that point, the overall shape and system that the team played benefited both sides of the ball.
Kemar Lawrence in particular had his best game this season. Three tackles, two interceptions, and countless intelligent football plays led to many Galaxy chances being squandered.
The defensive shape also allowed Sean Davis to express himself more offensively. Davis was making far too many passes from and around his own half earlier in the season. He would average twenty or more a match, limiting his affect on the offensive side of the ball.
During the last two wins combined, though, Davis totalled 16 passes in his own half, with only six of those coming against the Galaxy. His contribution was clear throughout the match, and Armas needs to build upon these successes heading into the match against the Impact.
Montreal has had a solid season thus far. Three wins in their last five have boosted the team into third in the east, but a recent loss to NYCFC shows how much the Impact are missing winger Ignacio Piatti.
Piatti has been the spearhead of the Montreal attack for years, and this season has been no exception. When he is healthy, Piatti is a dynamic winger with an unbeatable eye for goal. He has scored three goals in his three appearances this season, but injuries have kept him out since March 16th.
Luckily for Montreal, midfielder Saphir Taider is starting to show his worth this season for the club. Just two weeks ago, he created five chances against the Chicago Fire. He is also tied for a team high three goals on the season. The Algerian is on loan until the end of the year, but until then, he will be an integral part of the Montreal midfield.
The Red Bulls and Impact have historically split the season series in years past. The home team has won the last four meetings, so it looks promising for the Red Bulls to make it three wins in a row.
Three points would boost the Red Bulls up to sixth place with a game in hand on the top three. A win for Montreal, though, would put them in a tie for 1st with DC United and the Union. Montreal has not lost back to back matches all season, so the Red Bulls will need to continue their defensive revival if they want to come out on top.
Armas made a bold decision going with five at the back, and the 433 that the Impact usually run will be tough to stop despite not having Piatti on the field. Another 541 setup seems like the right choice for the Red Bulls. Supporters need to be patient during this transition into a more defensive lineup, and results like last week will make it a lot easier to accept.