MINNEAPOLIS, MN (July 22, 2017) – On a sizzling Minnesota afternoon, a big 3-0 Red Bull victory has shed light on multiple important factors for each team going forward. Sacha Kljestan became the New York Red Bulls all-time assists leader. For the first time in four years, RBNY has won 3 away matches in a row, and are on their way up. Meanwhile, Minnesota United FC’s struggles continue despite two debuts.
3 Talking Points:
An Organized Mess
The Red Bulls have been on something of an offensive explosion in recent weeks. Play-by-play announcer Steve Cangialosi brought this information to light earlier today:
Before the Saturday afternoon 3-0 win, they trounced the San Jose Earthquakes 5-1, and before that they beat New England Revolution 3-2 in a last-gasp thriller. A likely explanation for this offensive trend upwards is the change of formation first experimented with in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Many times, it seems that Jesse Marsch has adopted a back five formation with two outside wing-backs. Tyler Adams has been relocated to the RWB spot, with Sean Davis slotting into the midfield in his stead.
Other times, it looks as though they have reverted back to the reliable 4-2-3-1 that has worked for Marsch’s squad for so long. And other times, it looks like an incomprehensible mess that just so happens to work.
Despite this chaos, here is my best rendering of how RBNY officially lined up against the Loons:
My best attempt: pic.twitter.com/mPQUTA5vQq
The back five system has created additional offensive support to the wings, and takes some of the scoring responsibility off of Bradley Wright-Phillips. It has also brought Sacha Kljestan back to the way he has played the past couple seasons. In this match, he surpassed Thierry Henry for his franchise-leading 43rd MLS assist.
It will be interesting to see how the team proceeds, with RB Michael Murillo back with the team, and still awaiting the return of LB Kemar Lawrence, both from international duty. The two of them could be seamlessly worked into this formation since they already play higher up the field. Yet, there is a possibility that Marsch and the Red Bulls will change it up again, and only time will tell.
The LA Galaxy are the only team in MLS with more away wins than the New York Red Bulls. In a league that has proven time and time again how difficult opposing venues are for visiting teams, 4 wins outside of Red Bull Arena is a statistic to hang your hat on for the players and staff.
Just over the halfway point in the season, and RBNY have already surpassed their away win total from last season. To be able to win on the road is imperative for a team that may have to fight for one of the last playoff spots in a strong Eastern Conference.
MNUFC’s Defense Shows its Metal
….And that metal is aluminum foil. Minnesota have been worst in the league all year when it comes to goals allowed. That came to fruition Saturday afternoon, as the Red Bulls tore through the passing lanes, and took advantage of a lack of pressure around the 18-yard box.
Two transfer window acquisitions debuted for the Loons in this match. Defender Michael Boxall and attacking player Sam Nicholson were in Adrian Heath’s Starting XI against New York. Neither Boxall nor Nicholson are up to proper match fitness, and neither have been with the team long enough to be even remotely comfortable in the squad. It was always going to be a tall task, and they were largely unsuccessful on the day, yet Heath spoke highly of both:
“‘I thought they were terrific,’ Heath said of Nicholson and Boxall. ‘When you consider that Michael Boxall got in late last night and has been in Canada for four days and yesterday was on a couple of airplanes … hasn’t trained, thought he was terrific, though. Sam Nicholson showed glimpses of what he’s going to be. He can play. He can run with the ball. He can combine. But more importantly, I love the commitment of the two fellas because they are so far behind the rest of this group in terms of fitness and just even feeling comfortable with the group.'”
Minnesota did not show much against New York, and they have a lot of work to do. However, with an optimistic manager, some fresh faces, and a Western Conference that is lagging behind in the points column, the Loons still have hope of a dream expansion season run to the playoffs.
The Red Bulls have been on their best form all season, and only seem to be getting better. Fans in the Metro area expect playoffs and MLS Cup every year, and if the team can perform like this against some of the leagues heavy hitters, there is no reason to think otherwise. They showed leaps and bounds of improvement in this match. It is one to build on, and continue to grow into the identity Jesse Marsch has built.