Who: Montreal Impact vs New York Red Bull
When: Sunday, October 6th @ 4:00pm ET
Line: Montreal +155 | Draw +280 | New York Red Bulls +143
Playoff position and the chance to host a first round playoff match will be in the balance for the New York Red Bulls when they face an already eliminated Montreal Impact side this Decision Day at Stade Saputo Stadium.
Fifth place New York wasted an opportunity to move up to the fourth spot (which comes with hosting rights) in last Sunday’s goalless home draw versus old rivals DC United. With United wrapping up its regular season at home to league worst FC Cincinnati, it is likely that those two dropped points will end up costing the Red Bulls a realistic chance at a home re-match versus DC in the single elimination opening round.
Sunday will put a lid on what was a disappointing regular season for the 2018 MLS Supporters Shield winners. RBNY were expected to challenge defending MLS Cup champion Atlanta United and cross river rivals New York City Football Club for the Eastern Conference in 2019.
Then again, perhaps this is the year that New York flips the playoff switch and makes a run at the MLS Cup, the ultimate prize that has so far eluded the league’s original New York franchise.
Montreal Impact vs New York Red Bulls Match Preview
Montreal does not figure to put up much of a fight after last week’s meek capitulation at home to Atlanta, unless Impact owner Joey Saputo’s postgame, shape up or ship out, diatribe awakens his underperforming charges.
With a victory on Sunday essential, if the Red Bulls are to have any hope of hosting, New York’s attack will have to take advantage of Montreal’s defense, second most generous in the East this year only to record setting Cincinnati.
Prior to that 0-0 draw versus DC, the Red Bulls had run off a three match streak of scoring two goals per game following a 2-0 loss in Colorado back on August 31. No longer able to rely on Bradley Wright-Phillips to filling the score sheet, coach Chris Armas’ side has done a good job of spreading the wealth in recent weeks. Only Daniel Royer, with two, has scored multiple goals over the Red Bulls previous four matches.
Royer has done it all year long for New York and with striker Brian White, who picked up some of the slack in BWP’s absence still unavailable, Royer will be in the spotlight once more.
Defensively the Red Bulls have improved as well, carrying a streak of three consecutive shutouts into Sunday’s Decision Day showdown in Montreal. Central defense pair Aaron Long and Tim Parker finally seem to be on the same page. Kemar Lawrence is reminding us all just how good he can be while Kyle Duncan has provided solid defense and an athletic outlet on the wing and seems to have displaced Panamanian international Michael Murillo on Armas’ team sheet.
A loss to the Impact Sunday in Montreal could see the Red Bulls fall farther down the table, with Toronto FC just a single point behind the Red Bulls and facing Columbus, out of the playoff race, at home on Decision Day.
For Montreal, adding former “next Messi” Bojan Krkić alongside perennial star Ignacio Piatti did not prove to be the secret to getting the Impact back into the playoffs for the first time since 2016, a turn of events that resulted in Saputo dressing down his team ad is likely to lead into a turbulent off-season for the franchise.
Who: Portland Timbers vs New York Red Bulls
When: Wednesday, September 18th @ 10:30 pm ET
Line: Portland Timbers -110 | Draw +270 | New York Red Bull +265
Losers of three in a row, the New York Red Bulls find themselves battling to hold onto a playoff spot, when not so long ago the 2018 Supporter’s Shield winners were in with a chance to secure a top-four Eastern Conference finish.
After appearing in the 2018 MLS Cup Final, the Portland Timbers have had a somewhat similar season to the Red Bulls. The Timbers find themselves in a battle for a playoff position in the tightly bunched Western Conference.
The one big caveat in Portland’s 2019 campaign is that the Timbers opened the season with an astounding 12 game road trip while Providence Park underwent the finishing touches of an extreme makeover.
Gio Savarese’s team did not do too badly under those difficult circumstances, compiling 4 wins, 6 losses, and 2 ties on that season-opening walkabout.
Both of these teams are coming off of disappointing losses. New York’s 4-2 defeat at Seattle came after the Bulls had erased a 2-0 deficit. Sunday’s 1-0 home loss to DC United ended a brief two-match win streak for Portland.
Portland Timbers vs New York Red Bulls Match Preview
Wednesday night’s match is the Timbers game in hand on most of their Western Conference playoff rivals, with the exception of FC Dallas and the Sounders, who meet in Seattle (also a 10:30 ET kickoff).
Of course, games in hand mean nothing if you do not win them.
Portland boss Savarese is hopeful that key men Brian Fernandez and Sebastian Blanco will be available. The return of his top striker, Fernandez (stomach bug) and influential midfielder Banco would surely be a boon to the playoff-chasing Timbers.
The Red Bulls list center back Amro Tarek as doubtful, with Bran White and Cristian Casseres down as questionable. Tarek has been playing a larger role than expected after being acquired for depth by the Red Bulls from Orlando in the offseason. Aaron Long’s frequent international absences (expected) and injuries and poor play from Tim Parker (unexpected) have seen Tarek pressed into service. Parker relieved Tarek at Seattle and will be ready to go Wednesday night.
Casseres can be replaced in the center of the park by a couple of different teammates but White will continue to be missed until (if) Bradley Wright-Phillips regains his goal-scoring touch.
Both teams have a lot to play for at Providence Park tonight and with the usual 25,000 plus on hand, the atmosphere should be intense. Thanks to that epic opening road trip, the Timers have 11 of their final 12 matches at home, and four of the final five from here on out. So far the Timbers are 4-3 on the run-in. If they can improve that home winning percentage in their final five games, Savarese and co. will be safely in the playoffs.
Red Bulls coach Chris Armas has come under fire from the Red Bulls faithful and his predecessor Jesse Marsch’s Champions League success with Red Bull Salzburg hasn’t doused the flames. Armas’ charges will split its final four matches evenly, beginning tonight in Portland. Four points above the playoff line and the same amount out of fourth place the Red Bulls are perched between hosting a home playoff match and missing out on the postseason altogether.
After the up and down season, the New York originals have endured the former would signify progress, the latter could see the Red Bulls front office contemplating a change behind the bench.
Who: New York Red Bulls vs Colorado Rapids
When: Saturday, August 31st @ 07:00 pm ET
Line: New York Red Bulls -250 | Draw +390 | Colorado +600
This Saturday night, the New York Red Bulls will welcome back New Jersey native, former New York/New Jersey MetroStar, and USMNT goalkeeping legend Tim Howard for his final professional match in his home state. This is the first time that Howard has faced his former, rebranded team.
It figures to be an emotional night for Howard and his Jersey-based fans. The home team won’t have much time for sentiment, although a video tribute would be a nice touch.
The Red Bulls are coming off of a disappointing trip to the Bronx that resulted in a 2-1 loss to neighboring New York City FC last Saturday. Sentiment aside, coach Chris Armas and company will be looking to beat up on Howard and his very beatable Colorado Rapids squad.
New York Red Bulls vs Colorado Rapids Match Preview
The Rapids will be playing their first game under new coach Robin Fraser in what is a homecoming of sorts for the former Red Bulls assistant, and ex-Chivas US head coach.
Fraser replaces former interim boss Conor Casey and inherits a team that is 13 points below the playoff line.
Already up against it, Colorado will be missing three starters for this match-up, with club goal-scoring leader Kei Kamara (11), midfielder Kellyn Acosta and defender Lalas Abubakar all suspended. Kamara sits for a straight red card offense and the others for yellow card accumulation in the wake of a madcap 2-0 Rivalry Week loss to Real Salt Lake. That match saw RSL score in the 96th and 99th minutes to earn the Rocky Mountain Cup.
Bouncing back from that disappointment will be no easy task for Colorado and an early test of Fraser’s motivational skills.
Fraser, most recently a Toronto FC assistant, will surely look to the red hot Diego Rubio if his Rapids are to deliver a surprise. Although he was kept off the scoresheet by RSL, Rubio notched a brace in the Rapids August 17th 2-2 draw at Houston. He has scored eight of his team-high nine goals in his previous 11 games.
Like the Raps, the Red Bulls will be looking for a bounce-back performance. However, unlike their guests, New York is very much in the playoff picture. Every point is crucial for NYRB as they attempt to secure a top-four finish and first-round home playoff game.
With young striker Brian White’s status still up in the air, Armas figures to entrust Bradey Wright-Philips with another start.
Midfielder Alex Muyl finally seems healthy again, as his rocketed goal versus NYCFC would attest. The hard working midfielder will likely get another nod from Armas unless the coach prefers to bing Muyl along slowly.
Red Bulls co-leader in goals, Daniel Royer, will get the start, and Armas figures to ride his most dependable player to the finish line.
A pair of players that will play key roles in RBNY’s playoff push are Aaron Long and Kaku. Both players have struggled for form in the wake of transfer rumors (Kaku in the offseason, Long more recently).
Just as important though for the home team are Long’s fellow defenders, center-back Tim Parker and fullback Michael Murillo. Not so long ago, Parker was getting USMNT calls. However, he has struggled this season while Long has become a national team mainstay.
Murillo has been a near-automatic pick not only for the Red Bulls but also for his native Panama. This season Murillo has been an accident waiting to happen though, collecting red cards, penalties etc, for New York to the point where recently signed Rece Buckmaster has become an option for Armas.
Still, if the Red Bulls are to contend beyond one and done this postseason, this is a match that they simply must win. Expect them to step up and collect all three points, souring Howard’s home farewell.
Who: NYCFC vs New York Red Bulls
When: Saturday, August 24th @ 07:00 pm ET
Line: NYCFC +100 | Draw +280 | New York Red Bulls +235
The table could not be set any better for Saturday night’s edition of the Hudson River Derby at Yankee Stadium, the second and final regular-season match-up between the local rivals in 2019.
Each of the teams is coming off a win on Wednesday night, with NYCFC dispatching Columbus in the Bronx while the New York Red Bulls took three points and the Atlantic Cup off of old rivals DC United in a thriller.
Those results leave NYCFC one point behind joint Eastern Conference leaders Atlanta United and Philadelphia Union. The Red Bulls are in fourth place, three points behind NYC.
And for a little added spice to an already potent rivalry, NYCFC has likely still not gotten over the circumstances that led to the Red Bulls 2-1 victory on July 14th in round one of this MLS Heavyweight bout.
The controversy surrounded the game-winning goal, alertly scored by RBNY from a quickly taken throw-in by Alex Muyl while NYCFC hesitated, waiting for the corner kick, as called by the linesman. Referee Alan Kelly, considered by many to be the top referee in the league, initially said that he had overruled the corner and that he had informed both teams.
Speaking to Pro Soccer USA’s Glenn Crooks a few days after the match, Howard Webb contradicted that statement. Webb, the general manager of the Professional Referees Organization, conceded that the officiating crew was at fault for the confusion that led to Royer’s game-winner.
“With hindsight, the referee should have stopped the game at that point and indicated to everybody to give clarity that the restart was going to be a throw-in.” Webb added, “there was a verbal indication to the assistant that it should be a throw-in, but there was no time to communicate to the NYC players.” “To be clear,” the former English Premier League official added,” there was no communication from the referee to the players.”
So, there’s that.
NYCFC vs New York Red Bulls Preview
NYCFC enters the game at even money. They’ve been the better side overall this season and as of late (LWLWW to RBNY’s LWLDW). They have the league’s third best point differential at +14, trailing Atlanta’s +15 and LAFC’s absurd +46. Probability models favor NYCFC as well:
However, the Red Bulls will be riding high after taking the full complement of points home from their trip to our nation’s capital. Daniel Royer has been particularly strong, pairing with Alejandro Romero Gamarra for goals against DC. For the Red Bulls to really have a chance this match, Aaron Long will need to have a strong performance. His game against DC was statistically his best game–including international competitions–since May against Montreal.
With MLS assist leader Maxi Moralez, Heber, Valentín Castellanos, and Alexandru Mitrita, RBNY have to contend with a lot of firepower. If it’s anything less than a Premier League level performance from Long and Michael Murillo, it could be a long night for the MLS originals
Who: DC United vs Columbus Crew
When: Wednesday, August 21st @ 7:00 pm ET
Line: DCU +143 | Draw +255 | New York Red Bulls +170
DC sits fourth in the Eastern Conference, one position and one slim point ahead of their fellow MLS originals. However, DCU has played one additional match. New York has had a stuttering season, where they just cannot seem to put it all together.
There is, of course, a lot going on with Ben Olsen’s DC side. There is the Wayne Rooney to Derby drama. There’s the ongoing, where and when is Lucho Acosta going saga. And now Ola Kamara has been acquired and he needs to play.
Kamara just returned from an unproductive stint, goal-wise, in China. He has been a force in his MLS career, scoring 48 goals in 90 MLS appearances for Columbus and the LA Galaxy. The Norwegian striker made a 16-minute debut off of the bench in United’s 1-0 loss Saturday night in Vancouver.
Olsen left Acosta on the bench from the beginning but we can expect to see the dynamic attacker, who put in a 32-minute shift versus Vancouver, from the start on Wednesday.
And anyone wondering if Rooney is playing with one eye on Derby got their answer Saturday. Rooney blasted the officials on the sideline when he was subbed out of the match, and again later on Twitter.
Meanwhile, DC has added former Red Bulls stalworth Felipe to fill a gap in the center of the park, caused by the absences of defensive midfielder Russell Canouse and his expected replacement Chris Durkin.
Felipe figures to be a good fit, even if United fans have never been overly fond of the combative midfielder, going back to his Red Bull days.
NYRB Preview vs DC United
New York continues to attempt to right its defense, a struggle only exasperated by a transfer saga of its own involving 2018 MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long. Long was “unsettled” as they say in the British tabloids by a series of offers from West Ham that his New York employers rejected as insufficient.
Long and his defensive mates hadn’t been quite as sharp this season as in 2018. Now with the playoff stretch coming, New York coach Chris Armas will be looking for his defense to solidify in front of goalkeeper Luis Robles.
That defense suffered a let down when it couldn’t protect a 1-0 lead Saturday night at home to resurgent New England. Of course, Armas might have expected more from his attack, which was unable to add to Marc Rzatkowski’s 18th-minute opener.
New York’s attack was hampered by the 29th-minute loss through injury of forward Brian White. White was tabbed to phase in as the replacement to Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Ironically, BWP now has to pick up the slack for the previously unheralded White, who leads the Red Bulls with nine goals this season. Armas will need count on Wright-Phillips to play starter minutes and to lead the line if New York is to have any hope of ending its MLS Cup drought.
Oddsmakers view this as an even match-up for the Red Bulls, even though it’s at DC. Rooney and co. are only slight favorites, +143 to NYRB’s +170.
The New England Revolution can be presented as a case study on the effect of coaching in soccer.
Incredibly, they have lost just once since Brad Friedel was fired in early May. They experienced a slight new coach bump, as many teams do, but once Bruce Arena took over full-time in June, they flipped a switch and became legitimately competent.
Friedel was a demanding manager, and Arena appears to have provided a refreshing break from his predecessor’s intensity. Players look more confident as Arena has played them in the correct positions and in a compact, flexible system. The acquisition of Gustavo Bou, in theory symbolizing a new Revs outlook, helps an attack that looks much more threatening.
Arena’s tactical improvements
Tactically, Arena has simplified things, but also crafted enough of a tactical understanding to allow the Revs to alternate between formations and playing styles without sacrificing familiarity.
New England have used both four-at-the-back and five-at-the-back looks, playing high lines and deep lines, sometimes possessing the ball and other times playing more defensive. Other teams that have tried that sort of approach in MLS — Veljko Paunovic’s Chicago, notably, as well as prior versions of Dome Torrent’s NYCFC — and failed, tinkering too much and never establishing an identity. Arena is a good enough coach that he does not fall victim to the flaws of Paunovic and Torrent.
The personnel haven’t improved dramatically. Players are just better. Carles Gil has lived up to his DP status. The defense — while there are legitimate concerns — has stayed afloat. A notably less error-prone Wilfried Zahibo has paired well with Luis Caicedo in a double-pivot midfield. Second-year SuperDraft pick Brandon Bye has proven to be a legitimate contributor on the flank, both in his primary job as a right back and as a wingback.
Arena knew these Revs needed a shake-up, and he’s provided it. Juan Agudelo and Diego Fagundez, who have long been under-utilized as cogs in a broken Revs system, have played all over the field. Striker Teal Bunbury, known for his streakiness, scored five goals in six games in the middle of New England’s 11-game unbeaten streak.
All of a sudden, the Revs are sixth in the Eastern Conference and will likely make the playoffs, despite winning just two of their first 12 games. That is a pretty astounding turnaround. Competent coaching goes a long way.
To finish, let’s take a look at some interesting aspects of their upcoming match against the New York Red Bulls.
Revolution vs. Red Bulls Preview
We know what to expect from the Red Bulls by this point. They’ll press out of a 4-2-3-1 and play a high line, trying to coerce turnovers out of their opponents. It will be interesting to see how the Revs respond, and how conservative Arena is willing to get with his game-plan.
In Seattle last weekend, New England put out a three-at-the-back and played a relatively high line. It was an effort to put an extra defender on the field, knowing that the Revs had traveled cross-country to face an elite attacking opponent. At times they appeared stretched in midfield, but they never looked too disorganized, and they succeeded in generating chances on goal.
The Sounders match turned into a wild goal-fest, finishing 3-3 with a few video reviews and end-to-end action. Arena called it a s—show. It actually was a fairly quality game, though many of the pivotal occurrences ended up being products of luck — Arena called it a “game of accidents.” In spite of the craziness of the game, it is a testament to the Revs’ improvement that they were able to hang with Seattle on the road.
Their next task is hanging with the Red Bulls on the road. They will be up for it. NYRB lack the level of attacking firepower to overpower teams, and no longer are able to dominate the middle of the field the way they have been in the past. Bradley Wright-Phillips is a super-sub. Kaku openly wants out. They just sent dynamic young winger Derrick Etienne on loan to Cincinnati. They will continue to need a difference-making winger.
New England can create chances. Arena could set them up in a deeper block with the intent to attack on the counter, to mitigate the effect of the Red Bulls’ pressing. Cristian Penilla, a speedy winger who came off the bench in Seattle, could return to the starting lineup as an option on the counter. We’ve seen the Revs find success in this style (and others), so it’s reasonable to think they can put fear into NYRB on the road.
Who: LAFC vs NY Red Bulls
When: SUN AUG 11, 10:00 PM ET on FS1 · TSN 1/4 · FOX Sports GO
Line: LAFC -315 | Draw +440 | +700
Already the best team in MLS by a wide margin, the Los Angeles Football Club has just added highly rated 19-year-old Uruguayan midfielder Brian Hernandez from Penarol as a Young Designated Player.
Diego Rossi also came to LAFC from Penarol, signing with the new LA side in December of 2017. Hernandez starred for Uruguay at the recent U20 World Cup and has experience playing in both the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.
As L.A.’s Bob Bradley-led juggernaut welcomes the New York Red Bulls to the Banc of California Park for a Sunday night showdown, NYRB has some transfer news of its own. The Red Bulls have just put pen to paper on a loan deal for 22 year-old winger Josh Sims, who comes to New York from Southampton on a Young DP contract for the rest of 2019.
Sims has made 20 Premier League appearances for the Saints, earning important minutes at the end of last season as Southampton successfully fought to secure its Premier League status.
With visa issues still to be resolved neither newcomer will be available on Sunday, although there will be plenty of talent on hand, particularly in the black and gold of the home team.
LAFC vs New York Red Bulls Match Preview
At 9 wins, 0 losses, and 1 draw, Los Angeles has a near-perfect home mark. They are not too bad on the road either, where they are 7-3-3.
The Red Bulls, third now in a tightly packed Eastern Conference, cannot come close to LA’s numbers and are 3-4-3 away from Red Bull Arena. If Chris Armas’ men are to get a result out of their cross country jaunt they will need to take some steps toward re-establishing the defensive chemistry that led New York’s MLS originals to the league’s best defensive record in 2018.
Perhaps the closing of the MLS transfer window on midnight Wednesday, August 7 will do the Red Bulls some good in that respect, now that Aaron Long knows where he will be playing his soccer for the immediate future.
The 2018 MLS Defender of the Year was reportedly close to a move to the Premier League’s West Ham, with other clubs in other league’s also said to be bidding for him. Long is a professional and seems unlikely to go into a funk, but performance levels have been known to drop when players are denied a move.
Long, goalkeeper Luis Robles and all the Red Bulls will need a big performance against L.A. who leads the league with 61 goals, 14 goals better than Philadelphia, second in MLS with 46.
Of course, goalkeeper Tyler Miller, center backs Walker Zimmerman and Eddie Segura have led LAFC to the best defensive record in the league, with LA having surrendered just 23 goals.
Of late, however, that defensive shield has shown a crack or two, with LA conceding twice after having built a 3-0 lead versus Atlanta on July 26. LAFC managed to close out that win, badly needed after Zlatan Ibrahimovich had hung a hattrick on them the previous week in a 3-2 loss to the L.A. Galaxy.
LA got back on track with a 2-0 win Saturday at New England behind goals from Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing. Rossi is second on the team and fourth in the league with 13 goals, with likely MVP Carlos Vela setting the pace with his MLS leading 22 goals and 13 assists, level with NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez for the top spot on the helpers chart.
With a very impressive record of 16 wins, 3 losses, and four draws, LAFC has obviously been consistent all season. From a points dropped standpoint, LA’s worst stretch was when they drew consecutive matches, 1-1 at Seattle on April 28 and 0-0 at home to Chicago on May 4.
As for the Red Bulls, consistently inconsistent might be the best way to describe their 2019 season. Going back to a pair of wins, 4-0 over Real Salt Lake on June 1, and 2-0 versus Cinncinatti on May 25, the Red Bull have alternated wins with losses, with just a 3-3 draw with Atlanta on July 7 breaking the win, lose, win, lose pattern.
NYRB are heavy underdogs at +700. With a +7 goal differential compared to LAFC’s +38, and on the road, they should be. Oddsmakers have the most likely outcome a 3-0 LAFC win (+800), meaning this could be a long night for the Red Bulls.
With both the Premier League and MLS transfer deadlines nearing, it feels unlikely that Aaron Long will be heading to England this summer. Long will be forced to at least play out the season in New Jersey after the disappointment of nearly going to Europe. His 27th birthday is in October. His window will not be open for a long time.
The New York Red Bulls apparently asked for $15 million in exchange for their prized center back. That figure is intentionally outrageous — it seems to signal their hesitancy to sell in the middle of the MLS season. Only a huge offer would be enough to convince NYRB to sell now, and they’re unlikely to receive such an offer.
Long’s agent got salty on Twitter over the situation, probably a calculated move to show his and Long’s dissatisfaction with the process. These MLS transfer sagas are often difficult for the players, who want to take whatever opportunity they can get to play in a big European league, only to be held back by their club, who lack incentive to immediately sell.
“would be a dream to play for RB Leipzig or RB Salzburg…”— Shaun Higgins (@Shaun_Higgins_) August 3, 2019
They don’t want him but they want someone else to pay $15,000,000 for him.
Trying to silence my player today. Can’t silence me. https://t.co/hGiPR30gop
MLS single entity system is a problem
Unless you have a truly high-priced prodigy (think Alphonso Davies or Miguel Almiron), you may be better off milking your star for wins and attention domestically before selling at first opportunity. As Taylor Twellman talked about on an ESPN broadcast this weekend, the single-entity system means MLS takes significant portions of clubs’ transfer profits. The Red Bulls would prefer to see out the playoff run with their defensive rock rather than ship Long to West Ham and only recoup half of the fee.
It’s hard to argue with the Red Bulls’ thinking.
With Long in the lineup, they will have a legitimate chance at navigating a weird and inconsistent Eastern Conference in the playoffs. For years they have missed out on MLS Cup, and as this season trudges on without a whiff of the usual Supporters’ Shield contention, it feels like 2019 has been building up for a playoff run. Even in this post-Tyler Adams transition season, NYRB are gunning for their missing trophy as they edge toward the end of the Bradley Wright-Phillips/Luis Robles era.
Losing Long could sink their MLS Cup chances. Selling for $4 or $5 million and forfeiting $2 million of that to MLS is not nearly enough of a trade-off.
By winter, they probably will be more willing to sell, given the opportunity to scout and sign a Long replacement, as well as integrate that replacement into the team.
For Long, though, heading to Europe in the January window is obviously worse than going in August. He would have to break into a Premier League team midseason directly after a long MLS campaign. Injury or bad form in August, September and October could diminish his value or even cancel the sale, a potentially damaging development for both the player and the team.
Cautionary Acosta tale
The recent Luciano Acosta saga is something of a cautionary tale.
D.C. United came close to selling Acosta to PSG in the spring, only for the deal to fall apart at the final hour. It was devastating for Acosta, who wanted the move. As Acosta muddles through a disappointing MLS season, DCU could regret the decision not to sell high — the real Acosta has proven to be closer to the pre-Wayne Rooney version than to the dominant one of last season’s second half. The Argentine’s value has likely taken a hit.
Long is significantly better than Acosta, and is unlikely to spiral if the Red Bulls don’t pull the trigger in the next few days. NYRB will probably be able to sell for a similar price this winter. That won’t satisfy Long, who understandably wants to take his opportunity to make a huge career jump.
But the Red Bulls want their shot at MLS glory, and there’s no reason to sacrifice that when MLS is going to dip their claws into the transfer fee anyway.
Who: New York Red Bulls vs Toronto FC
When: Saturday, August 3rd @ 6:00pm ET on ESPN+
Where: Red Bull Arena
Line: New York Red Bulls -114 | Draw +285 | Toronto FC +270
Welcome back from the break, now, where were we?
Oh, yeah, on July 27, um last Saturday, the New York Red Bulls dropped a painful 3-2 decision at home to the hugely disappointing Columbus Crew – wasn’t Caleb Porter supposed to be better than this? – that left them sitting in 5th place with 34 points. Not terrible, but not great after 23 games from the defending Supporters Shield winners.
Now the Red Bulls hope to kick off a stretch run with a win against a side in worse shape than themselves, the struggling Toronto Football Club. Despite a 2-1 home win over FC Cincy last Saturday, TFC spent the break below the playoff line. However, a win on Saturday could push them as far up the table as 5th place, ahead of the Red Bulls and level on points with 4th place NYCFC.
New York Red Bulls vs Toronto FC match preview
With the taste of that loss to Columbus and the lingering feeling that they should have done better than a 3-1 loss in Toronto back on July 17, the Red Bulls figure to be a somewhat angry side on Saturday night.
The Red Bulls have done well over the years against Toronto, especially at home, where the Bulls have are an impressive 11-2-2 versus the Reds over the years.
To keep that record climbing, New York will need to contend with Jozy Altidore, who has scored a goal in four consecutive games, some of them quite spectacular, and MLS All-Star Alejandro Puzuelo, who has been a smash hit since coming to the league. Puzuelo has nine goals and nine assists in 19 games. Giovinco-esque, no?
As for Altidore, the man a sizable portion of USMNT supporters love to hate, he has been flashing the combination of power and skill that first excited the American soccer community when he first appeared on the scene way back in 2006.
Altidore has nine goals in 13 games this season, just nine starts. Simply put, when Altidore is healthy, he is still far and away the best American striker and a top MLS star.
TFC has not been sharp defensively and is looking to another controversial USMNT man, Omar Gonzalez, to right that ship. Gonzalez has played three games for Toronto since returning to the league for the first time since 2015, when Gonzalez left the L.A. Galaxy for Mexico.
New York coach Chris Armas has yet to rely on Bradley Wright-Phillips for a full match since the veteran striker’s return. Instead, he is choosing to bring BWP off of the bench to replace or play alongside Reb Bulls joint-leading goal scorer Brian White.
Armas may be inclined to continue that strategy, although a surprise pairing from the start could upset TFC coach Greg Vanney’s plans. In our mid-season Report Card, we pointed out that it may be time for Derrick Etienne to make a jump from bit player to a more prominent role in the Red Bulls attack.
His confidence is on the up after playing an important part in Haiti’s Gold Cup campaign. The Haitian-American is quick, skillful and can be audacious, qualities the Red Bulls offense could surely use.
The Red Bulls finally have their health as they head into the final portion of the 2019 season. If the team is to make a run to the playoffs and perhaps do some damage once they get there, last season’s league leading defense simply must cut down on the mistakes and tighten up in front of Luis Robles.
The Tyler Adams effect has been real but with four international quality defenders in Kemar Lawrence, Michael Murillo, Aaron Long, and Tim Parker, the Red Bulls defense can and should be among the league’s best.
With the MLS All-Star Game complete, it’s time to hand out some grades on the season’s (slightly more than) first half.
The New York Red Bulls entered the 2019 season as the defending Supporters Shield winners, again. The 2018 edition of RBNY racked up 71 points from 34 regular season matches to edge Atlanta United for the right to raise the Shield.
Unfortunately for New York’s MLS originals, Major League Soccer does not decide its champion via the regular season, as in the European and South American model. MLS “Americanized” the sport with a playoff system that it has employed since the Red Bulls were known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars back in the inaugural 1996 season.
The Red Bulls are only too familiar with this wrinkle. They’ve claimed the Supporters Shield three times: 2013, 2015, and 2018. Still, they have not once earned the right to call themselves MLS Cup champions.
All of which is to say that a run to the MLS Cup Final would render the following grades as meaningless, an eventuality that would likely please the majority of the Red Bulls.
We will grade by position with comments on the individual players.
Red Bulls captain Luis Robles has been one of the best keepers in MLS since he took over for an injured Ryan Meara in 2012. His leadership role since taking over ultimately led to Robles earning the captain’s armband.
Meara is still around serving as Robles’ backup, and the Yonkers, N.Y. native may well be the best number two in the league.
Last season, the Red Bulls conceded just 33 goals in a 34 game season, numbers that have proved impossible to duplicate in 2019. After Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Columbus, the Red Bulls have surrendered that same amount, 33 goals, in just 23 games.
Robles has played in all but one of those matches, and while the fault lies primarily with the Red Bulls defense, the goalkeeper must also accept a share of the responsibility.
Injuries and international call ups have played a role in the decline of the Red Bulls defense. So too has some poor individual play. The Gold Cup deprived coach Chris Armas of three of his back four, with fullbacks Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica), Michael Murillo (Panama), and Aaron Long (USA) all missing time for the Gold Cup. Long’s center back partner Tim Parker has had some minor injury issues to deal with, and Lawrence missed the beginning of the campaign through injury.
The Red Bulls defensive depth has been severely tested and has fared ok. When Amro Tarek has more starts (17) and more minutes (1,388) than Aaron Long (13 & 1,125) and when Connor Lade has started just one game less than Kemar Lawrence, then your defense will suffer.
Which isn’t to say that Tarek and Lade have been bad. They haven’t. And fullback Kyle Duncan and central defender Sean Nealis have stepped in with some good performances when called upon, too.
But the rock solid certainty of New York’s defense from 2018, the defense that featured Murillo and Lawrence on the wings and Long and Parker in the middle, with Tyler Adams and Sean Davis patrolling in front of them, is gone.
Armas has shuffled players, shifting in and out of a three back and four back formation. The results have been decent. However, the uncertainty surrounding the Red Bulls defense is reflected in the team’s goals allowed stats and in the Eastern Conference Standings, where the Red Bulls sit fifth.
Replacing the indefatigable Tyler Adams was never going to be easy for the Red Bulls, even for a team that barely missed a beat when Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty moved on over the past couple of seasons.
The Red Bulls task was further complicated by Kaku’s flirtation with a failed transfer to Mexican powerhouse Club America. This led to the team talisman’s subsequent slow start. Kaku has since corrected course but none of the potential Adams replacements has come close to providing what the current RB Leipzig man brought last season.
Most of the minutes in Adams’ old spot alongside Sean Davis in the center of the park have fallen to Marc Rzatkowski. 19-year-old Venezuelan Cristian Cásseres Jr. has shown promised and seen considerable time as well.
Without Adams around to cover his customary huge tracts of land, some of that workload has fallen to a willing Davis. He has seen his assist total drop from eight in 2018 to just two so far this year.
Kaku’s assist numbers are also way down, continuing a trend that began in the second half of last season. In just 12 starts to date in 2019, the Argentinian born, Paraguayan international has contributed just three goals and four assists, leaving the Red Bulls struggling for creativity.
That has increased the pressure on the Red Bulls fabled press to cause counter-attack providing turnovers. Hard working wingers Daniel Royer and Alex Muyl, who has doubled as a wing-back, can be disruptive forces for opponents to deal with and Royer is a reliable scoring option this year (eight goals and six assists).
20-year-old Bronx native Omir Fernandez has two goals and two assists as an attacking midfielder. The rookie Homegrown prospect has been used off the bench in 11 of his 14 appearances this season.
After a good showing at the Gold Cup for Haiti, midfielder/forward Derrick Ettienne returned to Harrison, New Jersey brimming with confidence and looking to solidify a place for himself in Armas’ rotation. Ettienne has scored just one goal in 10 appearances (4 starts) for New York this year. If he can show some consistency, Ettienne could play a bigger role down the stretch for the Bulls.
Bradley Wright-Phillips has only recently returned from a long injury spell that created a goal-scoring vacuum for a team that has been overly reliant on him the past couple of seasons.
Goals were hard to come by when BWP went down until 23- year -old striker Brian White found the range and Royer found his shooting boots.
But it has been Brian White, the 16th pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft out of Duke, that has essentially saved the Red Bulls season. White enters the All-Star break tied with Royer for the team lead with eight goals and murmurings of a call up to USMNT’s January Camp.
Armas likens White’s game to BWP. There is something to that, as both strikers do their best work close to goal. Of course, White has much to accomplish before he can be ranked anywhere near Wright-Phillips, the all-time leading goal scorer in New York Red Bulls history with 108.
Armas has been slowly integrating Wright-Phillips back into the lineup. How he and White gel could have a say in how the Bulls finish up this season.
Team Grade: C+
If this seems harsh keep in mind the Red Bulls success from last season. Injuries and absences have played a role but fifth place (at the moment) is a big fall from first.
How Oddsmakers view the Red Bulls’ season to date
Oddsmakers agree with our assessment of the Red Bulls to date. After starting the season as one of the three favorites to win the MLS Cup, New York now have the 11th best odds.
They’re priced at +2000 on DraftKings Sportsbook NJ. That’s the same as Minnesota United.
Timing, as they say, is everything.
It was that the timing of the Columbus Crew’s three goals in Saturday night’s 3-2 victory at Red Bull Arena that contributed mightily to the home team’s loss in the final match for both clubs before the MLS All-Star Game.
The timing issue first reared its ugly head after the Red Bulls rising young star forward Brian White scored his eighth goal of the season to give the home team the lead 14 minutes into the match.
The goal came against the run of play, with the Crew holding the upper hand in the early exchanges. In the 8th minute, Luis Robles was bailed out by his left upright when he was beaten by Crew star Artur.
Having escaped that early danger, New York took the lead when White beat a couple of Columbus defenders to head past the Crew’s new keeper, Curacao’s Gold Cup star Eloy Room.
White’s header was deftly directed to the corner of Room’s net, a well-taken goal that White celebrated with a little dance. It was a sign of growing confidence and comfort for the modest 23-year-old New Jersey native.
But, and here is where the timing issue comes in, the Red Bulls were unable to enjoy their lead for even a full minute because that is how long it took New York to cough up the lead via a Luis Argudo goal.
Argudo, a 23-year-old midfielder from Queens, New York, finished well from a tight angle after a nice headed pass from Gyasi Zardes, to quickly level the match. Timing.
Argudo would play a big part in the second Columbus goal when he accidentally assisted on a goal from Pedro Santos less than a minute into the second half. This was another case of bad timing for the Red Bulls, who did not appear ready to play at the start of the second half, a lapse that cot New York a share of the lead.
Argudo’s assist appeared to be accidental. It seemed as if he was looking to continue his run into the Red Bulls box after he had far too easily beaten Tim Parker. Instead, it looked as if Argudo lost control of his dribble, which fortunately for him, found its way to Santos, and Santos buried his chance.
Or, maybe it was just a good pass.
In either case, the Crew had a 2-1 lead just seconds into the second half. However, the Red Bulls showed character to fight back and draw level on a VAR awarded penalty kick by Daniel Royer in the 63rd minute.
With the help of the Video Assist, referee Fotis Bazakos correctly fingered the very much involved Argudo as having pulled back Royer in the penalty area. It did seem like an obvious enough infraction that the ref should have been able to pick it up unaided.
Of course, the Red Bulls were unable to hold onto their share of the spoils. The home side coughed up the lead on a second goal to Pedro Santos. Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles had come up huge when he stoned Zardes from point-blank range, but the netminder was let down by his ball-watching defense, as Santos pounced once the ball caromed off of Robles’ chest, falling in the center of the box.
The timing wasn’t great for the Red Bulls, although with six minutes of the original 90 plus stoppage time, the home team might have mounted a late comeback. It was not to be on this night, a night that ended as boos rained down on the home team at the final whistle.
Right on time.
The New York Red Bulls escaped from central Florida Sunday night with a 1-0 victory over Orlando City SC, thanks in no small part to the goalposts that stood like a fortress behind captain Luis Robles in the second half.
The visiting Red Bulls were the better of the two teams even before striker Brian White scored his club leading seventh goal of the season in the 32nd minute off of an exquisite, inch-perfect pass off of the boot of Alejandro Romero Gamarra, aka – Kaku.
Until that moment on Sunday night, Orlando keeper Brian Rowe had been busily repelling any and all attacks launched by New Yorkers. It was largely down to Rowe’s acrobatics that Orlando managed to head to the comfort of the home locker room trailing by no worse than that 1-0 scoreline.
Orlando might have been expected to come storming out of the gates on the re-start, but whatever words coach James O’Connor employed in his halftime team talk seemingly fell on deaf ears, with New York maintaining control as the final 45 minutes unfolded.
Armas adjusts line-up
Red Bulls coach Chris Armas had sent out a somewhat unusual lineup featuring Premier League transfer target Aaron Long at left fullback as opposed to his accustomed center back position, despite the presence of versatile defender Conor Lade on the Red Bulls bench.
Armas also handed a start to Derrick Etienne, and the Haitian international was on song after his fine performance in the Gold Cup.
Although he has been back from injury for several weeks now, Bradley Wright-Phillips began on the bench once more, coming on to team with White at the spear of the Red Bulls attack for the game’s final 16 minutes.
The goal posts take charge
New York’s lead was just a single goal but the visitors appeared comfortable and with Orlando doing little to trouble New York netminder Luis Robles a Red Bulls win was beginning to look secure.
Then Robles’ best friends, the goal post, got involved as the revived Orlando suddenly began peppering Robles with shot after shot.
Orlando midfielder Carlos Ascues was the first of the Lions to be foiled by the woodwork when his shot clipped the crossbar and carried over for a New York goal kick.
Tesho Akindle would follow Ascuses’ example. However, the sequence that may have said “it is not your night, Orlando,” starred former Red Bull Sacha Kljestan, who looked set to equalize in the 76th minute when he struck the inside of Robles’ right upright and then fired the rebound right at his former teammate’s prone frame.
Kljestan was fantastic on the night in his 24-minute substitute appearance, one wonders what the former USMNT man might have accomplished in a full shift.
To their credit, Orlando continued to battle, testing Robles as the clock ticked down. Robles aced the exam allowing his teammates to exhale with relief at the final whistle, delighted to head north with the maximum allotment of three points from the encounter with Orlando.
With a chance to gain ground and move a bit closer to the playoff line in the Eastern Conference Orlando will rue their close misses while NYRB climbs above NYCFC and into 4th place.
Up Next for New York Red Bulls
Saturday, July 27 vs. Columbus Crew SC
For those unfamiliar, read how to bet soccer. Home team is listed first.
|NYRB -143||Draw +255||Columbus +410|
At this stage of the MLS season, we can confidently place a group of five teams at the top of the Eastern Conference hierarchy:
Other playoff contenders — notably the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, Orlando City SC and the New England Revolution — will hang around, but the existing group of five will be tough to challenge.
To handicap the race, let’s take a look at each of the East elites, including what they do well and poorly and how they’ve played in recent weeks.
DCU sit second in the Eastern Conference, barely a nick ahead of a threatening group of three — Atlanta, NYRB, and NYCFC. D.C. are in danger are falling further behind.
Even as they stick around in the upper tier in the conference, it grows harder and harder to proclaim them as legitimate contenders. They’ve won just twice in their last 10 games.
Luciano Acosta is suspended currently for a red card, and has generally taken a step back from last season’s ascent to stardom. They haven’t scored at the rate most expected despite Wayne Rooney’s continued excellence.
By the time Acosta is transferred elsewhere (which seems like an inevitability, whether this window or next), D.C. will be severely missing attacking creativity. In fact, they’ve been missing attacking creativity even with Acosta in the lineup. D.C. rank in the lower tiers of shots per game and xG per game. They lack difference-makers — players who can find the ball and pick out passes that others don’t see.
Acosta has been a difference-maker in the past, but this season his productivity has waned. DCU don’t have other players who can both fill in when Acosta’s production dips and, most importantly, help boost the Argentine. They need a secondary creator.
Lucas Rodriguez is a dribbler, but he’s not a passer or an adept connector. Paul Arriola is a workhorse. The deeper midfielders have yet to find ways to impact further up the field the way players like Cristian Roldan in Seattle have.
D.C. have to surround Rodriguez and Arriola with players who can move the ball and keep D.C.’s attack from faltering. Rodriguez, while electric on the ball, has an xGChain/96 figure of 0.96, lower than that of Gyasi Zardes. Arriola is a high-caliber player, but similarly lacks the ability to find difference-making passes.
Above all else, D.C. need a shake-up. They’ve clearly stagnated. We’ll see what this transfer window brings.
NYC lost twice in MLS in the last couple of weeks, to the Portland Timbers and the Red Bulls. In between those, they sandwiched a penalty-kick defeat in the US Open Cup quarterfinals against Orlando City.
Pigeons fans need not worry too much about these recent setbacks. The Red Bulls loss had a fluky feel to it — NYRB scored their goals on a penalty-kick and a bizarre, controversial referee mismanagement situation. NYC had dominated much of the New York Derby. They had their chances against Portland, losing 1-0 despite dominating the xG battle. Penalty shootouts are basically coin tosses.
In general, City look like one of the league’s better teams, and hold games in hand on most of their Eastern Conference rivals. Their attack is deep. Younger options have emerged in midfield alongside Alex Ring; most notably, Keaton Parks has become an important starter, and James Sands will continue to have a role. Maxi Moralez is a legitimate MVP candidate.
Dome Torrent has his team spreading opponents out, sending the fullbacks forward, and thriving off of diagonal switches in the attacking third. It is an effective formula, but they have to be careful to prevent the well running dry.
Have Atlanta adjusted to Frank de Boer’s system? I’m inclined to say that they have, to a certain extent. They’ve worked their way back up to third in the Eastern Conference, and they have started to improve in midfield. Justin Meram has shown flashes of pre-Orlando City Justin Meram.
But when they win, defending and Josef Martinez make the difference.
Ezequiel Barco and Hector Villalba are still injured. With Brek Shea out for the year and Mikey Amrbose battling thigh problems, they don’t have a left back. Pity Martinez has not yet transformed into a world-beating superstar, and it’s hard to see that happening any time soon. They have a ceiling now that they didn’t have in the past.
The five-game win streak they ripped off at the beginning of May appears to have been a product of a weak schedule; they took four of a possible 15 points in the five games prior to Wednesday’s 5-0 demolition of 10-man Houston.
De Boer should roll with the 3-5-2-ish formation he tested against the Dynamo. Julian Gressel is best used as a wingback, and a three-at-the-back is the only way De Boer can fit the center back trio of Miles Robinson, Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez and Michael Parkhurst together. Pity’s defensive apathy would be most effectively sheltered in a second striker role.
Atlanta will keep trying to find the best version of themselves.
New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls, contrary to previous NYRB seasons, look set up to succeed in the playoffs instead of the regular season. They took some time to coalesce this year — a process that makes sense, considering the departure of Tyler Adams, injuries on the backline, Champions League congestion, and Kaku’s going off the rails at various times — and now they are motoring along at a reasonable pace.
It’s hard to see them going on a run and challenging for first in the conference, barring some big signing of a winger. Reigning Defender of the Year Aaron Long has been the subject of transfer rumors this summer. If they sell, they make things very difficult for themselves this season.
But aside from Adams’s departure and Bradley Wright-Phillips’s decline to super-sub status, not too much is different about this Red Bulls team from previous iterations. They play a similar style and press the ball well. In the waning BWP years (and first Brian White year!), they’ll want to make a serious run in October.
The current top team, Philly have been better and more consistent than every team in the East except for (arguably) NYCFC. They have the look of a bona fide elite, though the recent injury of Jamiro Monteiro has stunted their recent form.
They may be a bit overrated in some areas. Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie haven’t had seasons to write home about, though Jack Elliott has been very good at center back. Andre Blake is perpetually the most overrated keeper in the league. The signing of journeyman American Andrew Wooten at striker is unlikely to be a serious difference-maker.
In general, though, the Union are legit. Ilsinho is a weapon off the bench that other teams don’t have. Kai Wagner has been one of the league’s best left backs this season. The diamond formation has worked wonders, and continues to produce quality possession. They will face a battle to finish at the top of the conference.
With transfer rumors swirling around the team’s 2018 MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long, the New York Red Bulls were unable to build on Sunday night’s exciting New York Derby win over cross-river rivals NYCFC, as they dropped a 3-1 decision at Toronto on Wednesday night.
Fox Sports’ commentator Brian Dunseth got the rumor mill churning during the broadcast of the Red Bulls 2-1 win over their Bronx based neighbors when he said that he has “been told there have been multiple offers, including a Premier League team offer, for Aaron Long.”
And while a jump to the Prem would be a big step for the 26-year-old center back, Long’s rise from twice cut second-round draft choice to MLS Defender of the Year and USMNT starter/Gold Cup Best 11 selection suggests that it would be unwise to bet against the athletic defender.
Long’s athleticism likely caught the eye of the scouts, as Long combines the speed and range of the midfielder he was until just a few seasons ago, with the power and strength in the air suggested by his 6’1” 190-pound frame.
Aaron Long Premier League Transfer Rumors
Not so very long ago the notion of Aaron Long as Premier League target would have been the longest of longshots. A second-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft by the Portland Timbers, Long never saw the field for the Timbers first team, instead featuring for Portland’s USL side before being released and picked up by the Seattle Sounders.
It was the same story in Seattle; USL, then cut; before the Red Bulls brought Long east on a USL deal, only to see the converted midfielder crowned the second division league’s 2016 Defender of the Year and earn a place with the big club for the 2017 campaign.
Long would add the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year to his trophy case while becoming a trusted regular on the U.S. National Team, having leapfrogged former Red Bull Matt Miazga on coach Gregg Berhalter’s center back depth chart.
Back to the Red Bulls vs TFC game…
Long, Tim Parker, and fullbacks Kemar Lawrence and Michael Murillo formed the league’s best back four, backstopping the Red Bulls to the top defensive performance in MLS last season.
With all but Parker on international duty and Parker missing time through injury in recent weeks, Wednesday night’s matchup with TFC was the quartets first match together in some time. It was a bit of a surprise then that New York conceded three times to Toronto, with two of the goals coming from defensive miscues from Lawrence and Murillo.
TFC opened the scoring with a sixth-minute gem of a backheel from Long’s U.S. teammate Jozy Altidore, a high-quality goal that left the N.Y. defenders blameless. The same could not be said on the next two TFC goals.
First Kemar Lawrence needlessly and obviously took out Toronto defender Richie Laryea with a slide tackle, gifting the home team a penalty kick that Alejandro Puzuelo neatly dispatched. Then, after Red Bulls striker Tom Barlow finished from a fine set up from Derrick Etienne, indecisive play by Murillo and goalkeeper Luis Robles combined to leave the ball at the feet of Toronto substitute Ashtone Morgan, with Morgan keen to punish the Red Bulls largesse.
It was a disappointing follow-up to Wednesday’s Derby success, although the lost points shouldn’t unduly worry the fourth-place Red Bulls – if they can hang on to Long.
Who takes Long’s place if he goes?
A move at this point in the season would be a tough one for the team to absorb, forcing coach Chris Armas to rely on Amro Tarek and rookie Sean Nealis to replace Long at the heart of the New York defense alongside Parker, while eliminating the three back set that the team used earlier in the season as a potential weapon for Armas to deploy.
A move for Long, to the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe, would further validate the Red Bulls as a conduit to the bigger leagues with Long joining Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), and Matt Miazga (Chelsea) as players who have used RBNY as a springboard to Europe.
Long is a different case, in that he did not come through the Red Bulls Academy, a sign that for the Red Bulls there is more than one way to make it to the promised land.
With the exception of a thrilling final five minutes that also saw Josef Martinez put Atlanta ahead in the 91st, this was a sloppy, physical, frustrating mess of a game.
Atlanta starts fast then disappears
The home team started strong, controlling possession and the overall tempo of the game. Playing on their front foot, Atlanta got on the board first after Pity Martinez threaded a perfect ball to Justin Meram, which he neatly tucked away past Luis Robles.
Atlanta slowed the pace down but looked in control until the 29th minute. Then center-back Florentin Pogba — who had looked among the best on the pitch up until that point — went out with an injury. The entire tone of the game quickly changed.
New York leveled the game eight minutes after Pogba’s departure as Daniel Royer capitalized on poor Atlanta defending to knock a left-footed shot into the top corner past Brad Guzan. The game went to half-time tied 1-1.
New York takes over in the second half
Whether it was the Red Bulls stepping up their game or Atlanta simply looking disorganized and disinterested, New York took command in the second half.
The Red Bulls took a 2-1 lead in the 60th minute when Brian White was left unchecked by a sloppy Atlanta defensive, easily burying a feed from Alex Muyl.
Another Pity-ful performance
Just as Pogba’s injury departure changed the game, so did a timely substitution in the 63rd minute by Atlanta coach Frank de Boer.
The micro Pity Martinez Experience is the perfect encapsulation of the macro experience of this game in general. Pity is capable of fleeting moments of brilliance, like his pass to Meram leading to the opener.
Mostly though, he’s sloppy, careless, lackadaisical and temperamental. He’s a frustrating and miserable player to watch.
Fortunately for Atlanta fans in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they didn’t have to deal with the Pity Martinez Experience past the 63rd minute. He was subbed off to absolutely no pattering of applause as Brandon Vázquez took his place.
Atlanta looked immediately improved.
They broke through in the 79th minute, as Josef Martinez drew a penalty in the box. Moments later, he leveled the game from the spot 2-2.
Five minutes of fury
Even in more turnover prone and careless stretches of play, the game had been chippy and physical throughout.
Everything amped up the final five minutes in stoppage time.
Josef Martinez netted a brace in the 91st minute, heading home a goal to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead.
Just two minutes later, BWP, who subbed on in the 77th minute for Brian White, tied the game 3-3 when Atlanta forgot the general concepts of defending yet again.
The Atlanta crowd went utterly silent at that point.
The players, however, did not.
The chippy play that had been building all game reached a boiling point in the 95th minute. A couple of on-field scrums nearly broke out, and the refs just decided to end the game, leaving the home crowd stunned.
It was a day of contrasts for New York’s MLS sides on Wednesday.
The 3-0 thumping New York City FC put on Seattle in front of a pre-holiday crowd at Yankee Stadium was impressive. However, the New York Red Bulls traveled all the way to Texas only to endure a 4-0 hammering at the hands of the Dynamo.
With these results, the boys in blue climb above the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings into fifth place. The MLS originals slip to sixth.
Red Bulls missing defenders disappoint in Houston
The Red Bulls had fullback Michael Murillo back in the lineup on his return from representing Panama in the Gold Cup. However, they were without center back Aaron Long, who was in action in the U.S. semifinal win over Jamaica on Wednesday night. They were also without Kemar Lawrence, who lined out against Long for the Reggae Boyz in Nashville.
Additionally, Red Bulls coach Chris Armas was missing his other regular center back with Tim Parker through injury forcing 5’7” (maybe) Connor Lade to play center back alongside Amro Tarek versus Houston.
Armas also sat star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips on the bench, only using his recovering goal scorer for 17 minutes. Instead, Armas turned to youngsters Brian White and Tom Barlow, neither of whom were able to beat Joe Willis in the Dynamo net.
It wasn’t a great night for the revamped Red Bulls backline with of Armas’ center backs getting beaten for a goal apiece and Murillo ending the match in the locker room after earning a late red card for a second yellow card offense.
New York had particular trouble with Houston speedster Alberth Elis, who assisted on Mauro Manotas’ opening goal before striking for a late brace.
The Red Bulls will be looking to get back into the win column when they travel to Atlanta to face the Five Stripes on Sunday, July 7th before hosting rivals NYCFC seven days later.
NYCFC impressive in pre-Fourth blowout
It was a happier pre – Fourth for the blue half of New York, with NYCFC running out 3-0 winners on a steamy night in the Bronx behind a three-goal second half.
In the midst of a three game winning streak, and with one more match, Sunday, July 7th vs Portland, remaining on a four-game homestand, New York remained unbeaten at home on the season, improving to 9w-0L-5D.
Wednesday night’s loss is the third in four games for the slumping Sounders. Seattle will welcome the return of Nicolas Lodeiro for its next match on Saturday in Columbus. The star playmaker was late returning from Copa America action with Uruguay. Panamanian defender Roman Torres was available to coach Bran Setzer but did not get the call. Howver, Xavier Arrenga, Seattle’s new DP, made his debut at center back after wrapping up Copa duty with Ecuador.
With the USMNT having advanced to Sunday’s Gold Cup Final, Schmetzer will have to make do without Jordan Morris and Christian Roldan for another few days.
Neither side troubled the scoreboard operator in a somewhat disjointed opening 45 minutes in the Bronx but the home team finally got untracked, with a little bit of luck, in the second half. Maxi Moralez opened New Yorks account, and that was no surprise, given that Moralez has found the net in three of his last four games while notching either a goal or an assist in seven consecutive matches.
On Wednesday night, Moralez goal had a touch of luck to it, eluding Stefan Frei after taking a deflection off of a Seattle defender. Fortun played a role in NYC’s second goal as a shot from Vincente Castellanos was directed to the net by Jesus Medina for Medina’s first goal of the season but no such claims can be made concerning the final NY tally of the night, laser off the left boot of Ebenezer Ofori that beat Frei from about 242nd Street.
With the victory, New York continues to have just one mark in the L as it concludes its four-game homestand on Sunday versus Portland ahead of A New York Derby showdown with the Red Bulls on Sunday, July 14th at Red Bull Arena.
Seattle will look to Lodeio to change its luck when they travel to Columbus to face the Crew at MAPFRE Stadium.
After what has seemed like a very long time indeed, Major League Soccer is back.
Friday night MLS was welcomed home the New York Red Bulls who defeated the Chicago Fire 3-1 on a sweltering summer’s night.
Bradley Wright-Phillips returns, Brian White shines
Also back was Red Bulls star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who hadn’t donned the double bulls since way back on April 20. In BWP’s protracted absence the club seems to have found an heir apparent in 23 year-old Flemington, New Jersey native Brian White, who’s 59th minute goal stood up as the match winner on Friday night.
The goal was also White’s team leading fifth of the season, impressive given that White has started just eight times this season, with two further substitute appearances.
With White’s fifth goal coming on a night when Wright-Phillips replaced his younger colleague in a 67th minute substitution, High Press Soccer asked Red Bulls coach Chris Armas what White’s emergence has meant to his squad.
Armas was full of praise for the 2018 first round draft choice out of Duke, calling White, “a version of Brad.” Still, even as proud as the Red Bulls coach is of the team’s vaunted talent pipeline, Armas admitted that until you see it at the MLS level, potential is just that, potential.
“He’s scored goals at all levels,” the coach noted, “and now (we see) he can he score them at this level. We think he can, but you know, now you see that he can.” Proof being in the pudding, an all that.
Armas called BWP “Brian’s biggest fan and mentor,” and said that Wright-Phllips, is “still coaching him along the way,” adding, “it’s really nice to see on the inside the relationship with those two.”
After a win, of course, everything tends to be pretty congenial, but there does appear to be a harmonious vibe between Wright-Phillps and the young man who may one day push him aside, even if Wright-Phillip downplayed his role as a ”mentor,” when HIgh Press Soccer relayed Armas’ evaluation.
“I help out where I can,” a modest Wright-Phillips began, “but if I’m if I’m being, you know totally honest, he’s a mature guy.” “I think,” he veteran striker continued, “you can tell through his game, he doesn’t get too excited, when he’s not scoring he’s not too angry. You know? He’s just a level headed guy.”
“I help out where I can but he’s doing all right. I don’t need to go in there and start confusing him. You know he’s playing well and he’s been one of our best players so you know I’m happy for him.”
As for White, the rising striker acknowledges Wright-Phillip’s role in his development and wisely, seems only too happy to take his advice on board. “Yeah you know, he’s always had a couple words here and there for me, to you know, improve my game.” White explained, “coming out of halftime he told me to be more selfish and get in the box and get on the enemy, so I try to listen, obviously. I got in the box as best I could and got a goal out of it, so you know, I try to take in everything I can that he tries to teach me.”
That seems like a smart policy on White’s behalf. Mentorship aside, Wright-Phillips clearly rates his young teammate.
“I don’t know where to start with Brian,” BWP said. “I’m a big fan of Brian. I think his all-around play is – I’m not sure you’ll notice this – but I think it’s very underrated. I think his finishing is top class, he proves that every day in training.”
Wright-Phillips continued, “even the shift he puts in today, it’s not easy for him, you know he’s not getting a lot of touches and he gets his goal, and I’m delighted for him. And I always say, you know, these young guys – even Tom (Barlow) as well – it’s one thing to play well when you just come off the bench and you’re excited, your first game, you’re playing with adrenaline. But these guys now, you know, fans expecting stuff of them, and they’re still delivering and that’s when you know you see a good player, credit to him.”
As for his own game, Wright-Phillips is clearly thrilled to be back.
Sitting in front of his locker, post-game, the Red Bulls all-time leading goal scorer said,“Yeah, it was amazing to be out there, I was like a kid, man, back at school.”
Wright-Phillips put his name in the scoresheet with an injury time assist on Daniel Royer’s clincher, when he sprung marauding fullback Kyle Duncan with a perfectly weighted break out pass to end the match as a contest.
Chicago will be frustrated with this loss, especially given a 26 to 10 advantage in shots. However, Chicago could only challenge New York keeper Luis Robles with eight shots on target, and could slip just one rebounded effort past the Red Bulls dynamic keeper.
The victory puts further distance between the fourth place Red Bulls and Chicago, who sit in the place, one position below the Eastern Conference playoff line.
Updated: June 10th, 2019
Despite a recent resurgence, reigning champs Atlanta United have fallen from pre-season favorites of +500 to +900. Last year’s Supporters’ Shield winner for best regular-season record, New York Red Bulls, dropped even further, going from +550 to +1600.
LAFC, who started the year at +700, are no prohibitive favorites at +200. They’re followed by Zlatan-led LA Galaxy (+750), the aforementioned ATL UTD, and NYCFC (+900). Eastern conference table-toppers Philadelphia Union have climbed from a pre-season +3300 to +1600.
The biggest risers from pre-season are San Jose. They’ve climbed from the cellar (+25000) to a respectable +6000.
(Odds as of June 10th, 2019)
|LAFC +200||LA Galaxy – +750||Atlanta United +900||NYCFC +900|
|DC United +1400||New York Red Bulls +1600||Seattle Sounders +1600||Philadelphia Union +1600|
|Montreal Impact +1600||Columbus Crew +2400||Houston Dynamo +2400||FC Dallas +3100|
|Sporting KC +3100||Toronto FC +3100||Portland Timbers +3400||Minnesota United +5000|
|Orlando City +5000||San Jose Earthquakes +6000||Chicago Fire +9500||Real Salt Lake +9500|
|Vancouver Whitecaps +11000||Colorado Rapids +12000||New England Revolution +12000||FC Cincinnati +20000|
The Red Bulls latest impressive showing came Saturday night via a 4-0 shellacking of Real Salt Lake.
No BWP, no problem
The 2018 MLS Supporters Shield winners have done all of this without the services of all-time club goal-scoring leader Bradley Wright-Phillips, who remains sidelined with what has been described for weeks as a day to day injury.
Tightening up leaky defense
In his absence, New York has had to find goals from a variety of sources to fill the gap, a problem that vexed the Red Bulls early, but has been solved recently with a goal scorer by committee approach.
Similarly, Red Bulls defense has not been the airtight certainty that it was in 2018. However, Chris Armas’ side has tightened up recently in that area, a testament to the Red Bulls impressive depth.
Welcome back, Petke
On Saturday night the Red Bulls welcomed back former coach Mike Petke, now helming Real Salt Lake. As fondly as Petke is remembered by the Red Bulls faithful, they delighted in Saturday’s second-half goal-scoring explosion.
In a battle of two of the best ever MLS keepers between Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando and the Red Bulls Luis Robles, it took an own goal in the 58th minute to break the deadlock. Rimando, in particular, had been excellent to that point, but the 39-year-old could do nothing when Red Bulls fullback Michael Murrillo’s driven cross ricocheted off of RSL center back Marco Silva for the Red Bulls opening tally.
Silva’s misfortune released the pressure valve on the New York attack and goals soon followed from Daniel Royer, just one minute later, Murillo, in the 64th minute, and then a late capper from rookie Omir Fernandez in the 83rd minute.
The Red Bulls recent improvement was played out in each of the goals with Royer beautifully set up by Kaku. The Paraguayan’s early season unhappiness after missing out on a post-season transfer to Mexico led to petulance and a suspension. However, all of this now seems far behind the playmaker.
Royer’s goal was well struck and a reminder that with Wright-Phillips sidelined, the Austrian needs to find his scoring boots. Red Bulls coach Chris Armas would surely love to see Saturday’s goal spark a run for Royer.
Murillo’s early season struggles saw the Panamanian World Cup veteran benched for Connor Lade. Since then, Murillo’s response has been heartening for the Red Bulls, with the talented fullback bouncing back with a series of strong matches. His recent assist spree has put Murillo atop the team’s leader board in that import statistic.
The final goal of the match came from one of the Red Bulls important depth players, Bronx native Omir Fernandez, via a perfect crossing pass from another of the Red Bulls Killer B’s Andreas Ivan, with that man Murillo picking up the secondary assist.
With the injury to BWP continuing to linger, Armas will need players like Fernandez and Ivan to contribute to the score sheet and with Fernandez scoring off of the bench in consecutive matches, the coach has reason to be encouraged.
The win marked a second clean sheet on the trot for NYRB and Robles, the 67th of the veteran’s career.
Keeping pace atop the table
The victory also allows New York to keep pace with the leaders in the Eastern Conference. They currently sit in fourth place with 24 points, just three behind first-place DC, with the Bulls having played two fewer games than United.
RSL, meanwhile hang onto the final playoff berth in the congested Western Conference and will be looking to right the ship when they return to MLS action on June 22, in Chicago. RSL host LAFC in US Open Cup play on June 11.
Continuing their up and down season, the Red Bulls were admittedly disappointed with last night’s 2-2 draw at home to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
A draw draws no positives
Sitting in front of his locker long after the rest of his teammates had scattered, Red Bulls captain Luis Robles didn’t even try to pull any punches. “No, absolutely not,” was the New York netminders reply when asked if his team took this draw as a positive.
After struggling for a moment to convince himself that a tie wasn’t so bad, “at least we got a point, right?” Robles reconsidered.
“So, a midweek game against a West Coast team to get a point is really one of the only positives that we can take away from the game. But yeah, it’s it’s really disappointing. If we’re being honest, it’s disappointing against a team that; they’re okay. A team that traveled a very long way to play midweek and (we) felt like we had an opportunity to get three points tonight.”
With the matches coming hard and fast, although primarily at home, the Red Bulls can’t help but look at last night’s match against a team that Robles described as “okay”, as two points dropped, especially coming on the heels of Sunday’s feel-good win over red hot Atlanta United.
Heightening the Red Bulls disappointment was the home teams utter domination of the first half, a first 45 minutes that rarely saw visiting Vancouver get into New York’s defensive half of the field. While possession can be a misleading stat, New York’s 69.4% to 30.6% advantage would normally result in better than a 1-1 halftime score.
In fact, New York spotted Vancouver a one goal lead with fullback Scott Sutter punishing the Red Bulls on a blistering counterattack in the 29th minute. Sean Nealis was turned inside out by Whitecaps striker Joaquin Ardaiz before he set up Sutter, who finished well from a tight angle.
That vulnerability to the counter would be a problem all night for Chris Armas’ Killer B’s, with the Red Bulls playing a largely reserve side after Sunday’s hard-fought win over Atlanta. Armas was without his first choice center back pairing, Aaron Long, injured, and Tim Parker, red card suspension.
Of the Red Bulls starting 11 versus Vancouver only goalkeeper Luis Robles, midfielder Kaku, Alex Muyl, and recently, center back Amro Tarek, would be considered first 11 on this Red Bulls side, and most of the B’s are learning on the job.
Robles rued that inexperience post-game, calling games like last night “part of the learning process.” Robles continued, “if you look at in the field, Brian White, second-year pro, Omir Fernandez first-year pro, Sean Nealis, his first-year pro, Kyle Duncan second-year pro. I could go through and for the most part, outside of Sean Davis, who came on late, Alex Muyl, Derek (Etienne), there’s not a ton of guys, even Kaku, second year in this league, there’s not a ton of guys who really understand what’s required to get results midweek.”
It was one of those young players, Brian White, who found the net for the Red Bulls equalizer when he flicked on Tarek’s header to beat Zach McMath in the Vancouver goal in the 37th minute.
White was briefly credited with the Red Bulls second goal, but his deflected cross was eventually ruled an own goal, with Andy Rose getting the “credit.”
The Caps picked up their play in the second half but it was the Red Bulls that went ahead through that o.g. But the lead wouldn’t last long. Just six minutes, in fact, with Fredy Montero burying a VAR aided penalty kick in the 61st minute.
The call was for a handball on Sean Nealis, who had a tough night, although Armas had his back. “We say that defenders get judged for their bad plays, right?” Armas began. “So we can put out 20,30, 40, fires tonight. He plays, he does well. Maybe a couple slip. But he’s such a he’s a young player, but he gives a lot. So we’ll always look and try to learn from the (mistakes), that’s why he’s out there. He’s got courage, and he’s growing quickly.”
Armas will have to keep faith with Nealis and his other youngsters, especially with the Gold Cup/COPA America disruptions, with 3/4 of his back four likely traveling, if Long recovers from his injury.
That’s not to say there will not continue to be some growing pains for the young Red Bulls. Here is Robles again, on that topic.
“It really is about the mentality. It really is about how you approach the game and how you’re able to regroup under 72 hours and do it again. And the teams that have done very well and won Supporters Shields for this organization, they figured that out. And that’s part of playing in this league. And if you look at the schedule, it’s not getting any easier, right, because of the scheduling change in the season being done at the beginning of October, you look at the congestion in the summer. And we’re going to have a lot of these. But as I said, those are younger guys, and they’re going to learn and they have very high ceiling. So I am very optimistic with that.”
The Red Bulls next travel for an away match on Saturday against FC Cincinnati.
FanDuel Sportsbook NJ has the Red Bulls as the slightest of favorites at +160. FC Cincinnati are +160. The draw is priced at +240.