(ORLANDO, FL)New York Red Bulls lost their second straight game in a tightly contested affair in Orlando. Once again, the Red Bulls controlled possession and created a dozen chances from the run of play. Good intentions do not translate to points though. New York heads home for an extended stay hoping to right the ever-tumultuous ship in the early season goings. Coughing up a goal on a routine set piece spelled New York’s doom, but their inability to overwhelm teams the way they had for the last few seasons continues to doom the team. As pessimism continues to rise in the Red Bull’s camp, there are some bright spots. Here’s what I saw:
Orlando Blanks Red Bulls – Three Things I Noticed
Switching Back To 4-2-3-1
The Red Bulls seemed to finally ditch the formation that has dogged them so far this year. By bringing Sacha Kljestan back into the middle of the field, the Red Bulls were able to attack much more effectively than they had in weeks. The issue on the day came from the play of the wingers. Derrick Etienne and Daniel Royer played invisible man for much of the first half.
Without wingers to help drive the offense, the Red Bulls reverted to only attacking through the middle of the field. This predictable approach made it much easier for Orlando to shut down the Red Bull’s attack. With the wingers not getting it done and the central lane closed, the Red Bulls were forced into playing a lot of long balls. Despite the lack of creativity, NY still found chances splitting the centerbacks.
Growing Pains Part I
‘Play your kids’ is a common refrain not just in MLS, but in soccer the world over. While the experience is invaluable for the youngsters, it can be problematic and difficult for the league table. Derrick Etienne and Tyler Adams are gaining plenty of valuable first team experience. Both players are also showing the trepidations of that approach.
Tyler is having trouble making decisions in possession. Rather than taking his time and making the right pass, he is forcing the ball, particularly on balls in the air. His decision making with the ball in the air has been difficult on the back line.
Quite often the ball is turned over deep in NY territory, allowing opposing teams to prolong their current attack. Taking care of the ball in possession is key to any team moving out of their own half. The Red Bulls have made it the cornerstone of their system over the last three seasons. These are dangerous mistakes to make, and only time and patience will break that habit.
Tyler’s lack of size is not something that can be so easily corrected however. The most striking evidence of the problems facing Adams at the MLS level can be seen on Orlando’s first half strike. Adams simply lost the 1v1 battle against Servando Carrasco, shoulder to shoulder. Adams has energy for days, but he will need to use his body against bigger opponents to find success for New York.
Growing Pains Part II
Etienne simply disappeared from the game for long stretches. When he involved himself in the game, he did well. He ran at the defense, drew fouls, and connected with his teammates. Too often though, he drifted out of the game. His 20 touches were the lowest of any starter, including Louis Robles. With NY out possessing and out passing Orlando, 20 touches is far too low from a creative player.
Etienne also must learn to work with Bradley Wright-Phillips. The disconnect between the two players caused some offensive issues for the Red Bulls. One of New York’s best chances in the second half came on a break with Wright-Phillips and Derrick Etienne. BWP read Etienne’s run incorrectly. His ball forward instead of playing him centrally effectively killed the attack. With NY having so much trouble creating high percentage chances this season, they cannot afford to waste these types of opportunities.
Both of these issues should sort themselves out over time, but their growth will come at the cost of points. NY must way their options carefully as the season runs to ensure a playoff spot.