City Islanders Drop Red Bulls At RBA – Three Things I Noticed

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photo by Joseph Goldstein

(HARRISON, NJ) – Harrisburg City Islanders came into Red Bull Arena looking to break their current four-game winless streak against NYRB II, and they did. It was a gutsy performance for a team that struggled greatly against the Red Bulls for nearly two years.

City Islanders Drop Red Bulls At RBA – Three Things I Noticed

The last time Harrisburg earned a result against the Red Bulls came back on July 12th, 2015. Since that time, the Red Bulls have owned the series against Harrisburg 4-0-0 with a +11 goal differential. Red Bull senior players loaned to the team for the match included Ryan Meara, Alex Muyl, and Michael Murillo. All three have struggled to earn minutes for the senior team, and were a welcome addition to the young NY team.

Ultimately, Harrisburg would leave Harrison with three points. In the 61st minute, Michael Murillo attempted to head the ball back to Ryan Meara. His attempt was a bit soft and it allowed Manolo Sanchez to run onto the ball. Sanchez beat Meara to the ball, rounded the keeper, and calmly finished.

Despite the loss, there were some bright spots on the night. Here’s what I noticed:

Backline Stability

For the second straight game, Justin Bilyeu made his case to be the starting centerback paired with Hasan Ndam. The defensive pairing works because of the separate styles the two play. Ndam can carry the ball out of the back, but he excels with his physically commanding style. His marking and aerial ability make him a tough nut to crack.

Bilyeu plays with much more finesse. He is a better 1v1 defender and reads the game well to break up play on the ground. It is very much a complimentary style to Ndam. Harrisburg’s goal developed from a mistake against the run of play, and the Red Bulls surely will be angry about allowing it. Even with the slight blemish, NY should be happy with what they have.

Offensive Struggles

Through the first half, the offense displayed their dominance over Harrisburg, controlling nearly 70 percent of the possession. However, that didn’t translate into any goals. The Red Bulls only managed to put a single shot on target out of eight. It is a problem the senior team has had in recent matches as well. Muyl and Allen struggled to connect with each other, and rarely found quality opportunities.

Instead, the offense seemed to find its groove dropping the ball back to the central midfielders as they arrived. Mostly, this meant Arun Basuljevic shooting from the top of the box. His opportunities were some of the best of the first half, even if they were off the target.

The Red Bulls had several good chances to equalize in the second half, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. Zeiko Lewis, who was once again active through his entire shift, broke through on goal, but failed to control his shot. Junior Flemmings had a number of good chances as well, but couldn’t keep the ball on frame.

“Yea it’s a little strange. We came out in the first game and put a lot of attacking plays together,” said coach John Wolyniec after the match, “The second two games at home, I don’t like the word struggling, but definitely not moving on all cylinders. We still created a lot. Maybe not a lot of clear chances, but a lot of close plays. We knew it was going to be a tight game and that it was going to come down to one play. Credit to Manolo, he makes his play, and our guys fell a little short in a lot of ways. But still a lot of good for us.”

Formation Struggles?

The senior team has similarly struggled in the new 4-2-2-2 formation, and NYRBII are not immune. Despite creating chances, the high risk system cam leave the team very susceptible to teams that can absorb pressure and counter. While it was true in the 4-2-3-1, it looks even true in the new formation. It is a problem that Marsch and Wolyniec will need to solve as the season goes on.

From reports this week, it seems like Marsch is ready to move on from the system, and by default, the sister squad would likely do the same. With Brandon Allen only starting so far this year, it means Woly will also need to figure out who his striker will be. The problem is nothing new for a team starting their season, and the Red Bulls will likely wait to see Stefano Bonomo’s status as well. Still, the early returns are not that bad, but they are a step back from 2016.

SCORING SUMMARY

62′ – Manolo Sanchez

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