A 3-2 loss on Saturday to the Columbus Crew turned heads amongst Red Bull supporters. The team looked like they had a comeback on after a Royer penalty was converted, but more sloppy defending led to Pedro Santos netting his second goal of the match.
A big standout during this contest was Amro Tarek’s play down the left side. In a questionable move, Armas decided to bench Kemar Lawrence in favor of starting Tarek down the left flank. Hindsight aside, there were multiple moments that suggested Armas made the wrong decision.
Tarek would bomb up the left side, often trying to whip in a cross. He attempted seven during the match, with just two actually making it to a teammate. His failed crosses, or whenever he was dispossessed, left either Harrison Afful or Luis Argudo unmarked down the wing.
It is hard to believe Armas did not know about the Crew right back Afful. The Ghana international is one of the most athletic fullbacks in the league, and his distribution and crossing this match caused a heap of problems for the Red Bulls.
Throughout the match, Parker and Long had to make up for the space Tarek left in behind. Daniel Royer and even Kaku were also seen trying to cover for Tarek’s elementary mistakes, hindering the team’s ability to counter.
Form aside, it is a puzzling choice to bench one of the league’s top fullbacks for a player that struggles with pace and has an equally effective time creating chances. If Lawrence wasn’t to play, Connor Lade would have been a more logical choice, and Tarek could have very well started next to Long if Armas wanted to keep him in the line up.
For all the top tier tactical decisions Armas has made this season, this was not one of them. Apart from losing at home to an Eastern Conference opponent, the result hurt even more in a week where Atlanta and the Union were both defeated.
The rest of the season is tough match after tough match. Results on the road will be needed, while the remaining home matches can be nothing short of wins across the board. The Red Bulls need to secure at least finishing in fourth, as that first playoff round at home will be crucial to their success in a Cup run.