With his team desperate for points after a difficult opening two matches, New York Red Bulls manager Gerhard Struber and his players emphasized preparation ahead of Saturday’s home match against Chicago.
“We spoke about (the 3-2 loss to LA Galaxy) and the direction we want. There are some moments where we have to improve but right now I think we are in a good shape and we understand the opponent on Saturday.”
Struber noted Chicago’s “ability to play in tight spaces” but also pinpointed target striker Robert Berić as Chicago’s main threat, stating that the team “has to be ready for long balls, for second balls” in defending the Slovenian forward after the team struggled to keep up with the more fleet-footed Chicharito Hernandez in Carson on Sunday.
The difficulties of integrating so many new players and establishing fitness levels without a proper preseason was again cited by Struber, although together with optimism about the team’s trajectory in those areas in the coming weeks. Struber stated that new signing Frankie Amaya, who made a late ten minute cameo against the Galaxy, is rounding closer to fitness while newly-arrived fullback Tom Edwards has also shown up in top physical condition.
“Tom has now had one week of training with the team. I think he has come with a good shape and is ready to help the team quick. On the physical side he is ready, but the main goal now is to be learning our principles.”
Struber however noted that center back Andrés Reyes suffered a “small injury” in training this week, decreasing the chances of the Colombian youth international making his New York debut. This leaves third-year center back Sean Nealis likely to make his third straight start after being pulled at half time on Sunday. In his comments to the press Sunday, Nealish also expressed optimism about the upcoming stretch and emphasized the team’s preparation ahead of Chicago.
“(The substitution) wasn’t anything personal,” said Nealis. “It was a tactical thing and a formation adjustment we had to make and the team was great in the second half. We went over a lot of tape and (the coaching staff) showed us a lot of moments where we could have put the game in our hands so that gives us confidence that we’re doing the right things going forward.”
Midfielder Dru Yearwood was also excited about the weeks to come as he rounds into full fitness. “I feel great after getting 45 minutes on my legs last week. We’re excited to come back home in front of fans and we want to get points, you know. We want to make it a dogfight against Chicago.”
Yearwood stated that he has “relished” the experience training under Struber thus far and that the various formations and systems the team has used so far have been a good thing for his growth. “Changing systems creates more knowledge as a footballer. I’m learning every day and excited about the six and the shuttling roles.”
With Struber emphasizing the flexibility of his midfielders - commenting that Amaya and Florian Valot in particular are capable of playing almost anywhere in his midfield - the Austrian seems set to surprise again with his team selection on Saturday afternoon. However with the need to start collecting points becoming crucial as the schedule shifts to the Eastern Conference, Struber must ensure that whatever system he goes with is more prepared than the team looked in the first half at Carson. At the very least - it sounds like he’s scouted the opposing striker a bit more this week.