After a scintillating start to 2022, the New York Red Bulls are still in search of their first win in Harrison after a frustrating homestand against Minnesota and Columbus. OaM tells ya a couple or three things we learned from Sunday’s draw…
The Red Bulls still struggle against old tricks
After seeing set piece breakdowns be the source of the goals given up in their earlier games, against Columbus the Red Bulls got a taste of their oldest kryptonite: bunkers and counter attacks.
After a first half in which both teams traded waves of possession with no breakthrough, Columbus was content to let New York overextend themselves in the second. Gyasi Zardes and Derrick Etienne squandered multiple chances, but it was the final counter attack sprung by Ashley Fletcher’s giveaway high up the field that ended with Darlington Nagbe nudging the ball across the line for the equalizer.
The blueprint used by Columbus in the second half is nothing new. More than ever, the Red Bulls are committed to the pressing style that thrives on other team’s adventure — meaning they run into problems when the other team won’t take risks. The Red Bulls thrived on the road against cocksure hosts in the season’s first two weeks, but must figure out a way to bait visiting teams into stretching themselves in Harrison.
Another long-term struggle faced by the energy drink soccer ethos is running into a whistle-happy referee. Joe Dickerson called 26 fouls on New York compared to 10 for Columbus. Strangely enough, this isn’t even the most lopsided total for this Red Bulls season — that honor belongs to the 22 to 6 foul ratio in San Jose on opening day — but learning to adjust to a sensitive referee against experienced opponents is a key area of potential growth for this young team.
What is the striker depth chart?
After a flat start to the second half, Gerhard Struber summoned Tom Barlow to enter as a substitute around the 50th minute. But instead of entering to join Patryk Klimala at the top of the formation as they had with fruitful results in Toronto two weeks ago, Barlow replaced the pulled Klimala in the single-striker formation.
Klimala and Struber could be seen remonstrating with each other at moments of the first half, with Struber imploring the Polish youth international to run into wider areas to collect the ball; an issue Struber frequently lectured Klimala and former striker partner Fabio Gomes on in 2021. With Ashley Fletcher making his debut on Sunday, it’s unclear how Struber will structure the top of his formation after the international break, but it’s apparent from the season’s opening home matches that he has not yet found the right equation to finish attacking movements.
Frankie Amaya is an early player of the year candidate
After an up and down opening month of the season, perhaps the most consistent player through all four rounds was midfielder Frankie Amaya. After a stuttered start to his New York career in 2021 where he struggled with tactics and fitness, the Californian has been a revelation in central midfield, carrying the ball and penetrating the final third in a manner rarely seen in New York’s turgid offensive play in 2021. Though he struggled with persistent foul calls from referee Joe Dickerson like the rest of the Red Bull eleven, Amaya’s dogged pressing and tackling was notable in this game, particularly against Columbus midfield escape artist Darlington Nagbe.
Struber and the Red Bulls will hope Amaya’s catalyzing form continues as he engineers the rest of the team’s attack to capitalize on the space he continues to create.