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.
MEN of the Match
For his 65th minute winner and first career MLS goal, NYRB rookie Tom Barlow was singled out as Man of the Match.
In truth, several Red Bulls would have been worthy recipients of the honor. Michael Murillo, Amro Tarek, Daniel Royer, and Sean Nealis all merited consideration. Had I been asked I would have given the nod to fullback Kemar Lawrence for his high octane defensive work throughout.
But MoM or not, the candid and ebullient Lawrence was clearly the star of the post-game.
The Jamaican international’s locker is the first inside the door at the home team’s room at Red Bull Arena. With the media packed tightly around Lawrence on Sunday night, egress and access became a problem for his teammates, including injured striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who was seen politely making his way through the thicket, balancing a tray of food as he went on his way.
Lawrence came into this matchup with Atlanta hyped to avenge last season’s playoff loss, which he sat out injured. Lawerence played Sunday’s match like a man with a point to prove and his intensity was met by Atlanta’s Hector “Tito” Villalba, with the two battling for 90 minutes and then some, as the Atlanta man attempted to get at Lawrence after the final whistle had blown.
Stationed in front of his locker, Lawrence was practically bursting to say his piece. “I told you I was gonna, right. I told you, I’m gonna win, right? I’m gonna win it for my team. And we went out there we did,” Lawrence began.
And he was just getting started. “I told you, I’ve been carrying around a lot of anger because I got injured last year. And I missed out on the biggest games ever for my team, the Conference Finals. And I just had that feeling. If I was on the field last year, we would have won that game. So I know I had the worst offseason last year knowing I was injured. So getting back from injury and facing these guys, when I’m getting really my full fitness level. It was just amazing. And the only thing on my mind was to repay them for how my team felt. I felt that we did that today.”
Lawrence and Villalba were involved in a late-game incident that led to the post-match fracas when Lawrence stood over the prone Atlanta forward and exulted. Atlanta got a free kick out it, one that could have mattered as Red Bulls clung to a 1-0 lead.
Atlanta took offense at Lawrence’s exuberance, with team captain Michael Parkhurst telling High Press Soccer afterward that, “we were upset with how Lawrence stood over Tito at the end of the game, and, you know, barked at him. I just don’t think there’s a need for that.”
Villaba also expressed similar feelings, but when word was relayed to Lawrence that Atlanta felt that he had been disrespectful, the Jamaican chuckled. “Lack of respect? No, honestly I can tell you what I said, I said, bring your best. I said, come on, bring your best. I see you bring your best against every guy, week in and week out, I want your best. That’s what I said. So if he feels like that’s disrespectful, that’s his fault.”
Exciting match from two emerging rivals
The match itself was a high-energy affair with New York flying out of the traps, perhaps in a bid to wear down Atlanta, who played and won Wednesday night in Vancouver.
Atlanta’s 1-0 win over the Whitecaps was the fifth on the trot for the defending MLS Cup Champions and the club’s fifth shutout in a row.
Atlanta coach Frank de Boer knew his team had missed an opportunity to topple the Red Bulls while playing with a man advantage from the 35th minute when Tim Parker was shown the line for pulling Josef Martinez and “denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.”
“Everybody is very disappointed to get not even a more out of it. And yeah, the time was right for three points,” de Boer noted, adding, “it’s always difficult to win here.”
The United coach didn’t seem to be looking for excuses. Rather, de Boer seemed forthright when asked about possible fatigue. “100%? It’s fatigue, I gave him two days off, because we have to be physically but also mentally, ready for Salt Lake, on Friday. And, you know, I saw the spirit was there, you know, they wanted but maybe the body and the mind, you know, sometimes will not do what you think will want to do.”
The big moments in the match came down to the red card to Parker and the New York goal. New York’s impressive depth, not an easy thing to build in a salary capped MLS, was key The Red Bulls started without USMNT center back Aaron Long and 35 minutes in his partner, Parker, was shown red.
Sean Nealis was introduced and he would be instrumental in the game’s lone goal. Red Bulls coach Chris Armas praised the substitute for his courage to make a play. “Sean Nealis drives with the ball on that play from center back and he makes a really good pass.”
Nealis set up Royer, who hit a brilliant cross that Barlow somehow managed to head back across Brad Guzan’s goal and into the net for what turned out to be the winner.
It was exciting, it was a bit nasty, and it seemed like the beginning of a rivalry sparked by genuine dislike.
De Boer doesn’t seem to mind. “Yeah, but it’s nice, you know, to have that kind of vitality between two teams, you know, because, yeah, that makes the sports. Fun, I think to watch, you know, they’re eager to win against each other, and they will do everything to win it from each other. Of course, there always has to be respect, of course, on both sides. But yeah, this is what you want. This is what you want to experience every week.”
And what does Lawrence think of the rivalry?
“I feel like this is like on the top of the list. I feel like there’s really a rivalry there.”
And how does Lawrence feel about his battles with Villalba? “Every now and then,” a smiling Lawrence began, “you’re going to find one player that you don’t like. You know, a lot of guys around the league like me,” but the New York fullback concluded with a shrug, “I can’t please everyone.”
- Harrison Hamm joins to discuss the unexpected ascension of Philadelphia Union (0:30) to the top of the Eastern Conference.
- Then Harrison recaps the first MLS transfer period (16:00).
- Peter Nolan joins (31:20) to discuss the New England Bruce Arena hire.
- He also looks at the rise of NYCFC and New York Red Bulls (38:00), including their game against Atlanta United this Sunday.
MLS Matchday 12 odds are released and with loads of quality games this week. Our two marquee match-ups for the week are: Philadelphia vs Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls vs Atlanta United
MLS Matchweek 12 Game Odds
All listed odds from May 15 on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
|Wednesday, May 15|
|Toronto FC -150||Draw +310||D.C. United +380|
|Houston Dynamo -150||Draw +320||Portland Timbers +350|
|Vancouver Whitecaps +220||Draw +250||Atlanta United +120|
|Seattle Sounders -220||Draw +360||Orlando City +550|
|Thursday, May 16||Draw +260||Southampton +195|
|Los Angeles FC -310||Draw +440||FC Dallas +750|
|Saturday, May 18||Liverpool -310|
|Montreal Impact -135||Draw +280||New England +350|
|Real Salt Lake +130||Draw +270||Toronto FC +185|
|San Jose Earthquakes +105||Draw +280||Chicago Fire +220|
|Philadelphia -120||Draw +280||Seattle Sounders +300|
|Minnesota United +115||Draw +250||Columbus +230|
|Houston Dynamo -130||Draw +290||D.C. United +320|
|Kansas City -250||Draw +390||Vancouver Whitecaps +600|
|Sunday, May 19|
|Orlando City -135||Draw +280||FC Cincinnati +370|
|New York Red Bulls +140||Draw +250||Atlanta United +185|
|FC Dallas +190||Draw +260||Los Angeles FC +130|
|LA Galaxy -270||Draw +440||Colorado +650|
Visit FanDuel Sportsbook NJ as games near for updated odds and, for NJ residents, to place your wagers.
Odds and Ends
- In our first marquee match of the week, Philadelphia Union (-120) take on Seattle Sounders (+300). Not only does Philadelphia have the advantage of playing at home, but they are also sitting 1st in the Eastern Conference and have a 5 game unbeaten streak. Seattle Sounders are not in a bad position either – sitting 3rd in the Western Conference. However, they have only won 1 out of 4 away games and have not beat Philly since 2016.
- In our other marquee match up, New York Red Bulls (+140) take on Atlanta United (+185). Last week, we had high hopes for NYRB who seemed to be getting back in their groove with two back-to-back wins…until Montreal brought them back to reality beating them 2-1 in New York. They did, however, redeem themselves against Dallas this past Saturday. Meanwhile, Atlanta has been on a roll with four back to back wins. Atlanta does, however, have a difficult week ahead of them as they travel all the way to Vancouver on Wednesday after just playing this past Sunday and then heading to New York on Sunday. While Atlanta is doing that, Red Bulls get to recover and prepare the whole week for Sunday’s match up. Regardless, this will be a good indicator as to which team’s improved form is for real.
Change is good, they said. Squad rotation is important they said. Well, Chris Armas was listening.
Coming off of a deflating 2-1 home loss to the Montreal Impact and facing a quick Wednesday to Saturday turnaround, the New York Red Bulls boss heard the advise and changed out an astonishing 10 members of his starting 11 for Sunday’s match in suburban Dallas.
Armas’ bold play worked a charm as the Red Bulls topped FC Dallas with a 3-1 victory Saturday afternoon at a sparsely populated Toyota Stadium.
Rotated squad rumbles to victory
Aaron Long figured to miss out after picking a hamstring injury of so-far indeterminate severity and Bradley Wright-Phillips has been day-to-day all along, but it was a surprise that Armas also left mainstays Luis Robles, Daniel Royer, and Marc Rzatkowski off the matchday 18 and back in the New York/New Jersey area.
The makeup of the Red Bulls bench was equally surprising, with the likes of Kemar Lawrence, Sean Davis, and Tim Parker cooling their heels alongside the surprise Red Bulls backup keeper Evan Lauro.
Dallas held the statistical edge in most categories against the Red Bulls on the night, but the visitors claimed an 11th minute lead when 19 – year old midfielder Cristian Casseres finished from Andreas Ivan the Red Bulls were on the way to winning the only statistical battle that matters, goals scored vs goals allowed.
That Red Bulls lead stood up for the first 45 minutes but the home team managed an equalizer before the halftime break, when Jesus Ferreira slipped away from Sean Nealis and found himself wide open in the Red Bulls box to head past Ryan Meara, deputizing for Luis Robles in the New York goal.
The goal is the fourth of this break out season for the 18 year old Ferreira, the son of former Dallas star, 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira. The younger Ferreira was widely tipped to earn a spot on the U.S. U20 World Cup side, but the citizenship papers for the Colombian born, Texas raised teenager apparently didn’t beat the FIFA clock.
So Ferreira will stay with FC Dallas while three of his teammates, Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania, and this year’s Cinderella story Edwin Cerrillo all head to Poland where the U.S will kick off on May 24th against Ukraine, followed by Group D matches versus Nigeria, May 27th, and finally Qatar on May 30.
With the match level heading to the final 45, Ferreira’s goal gave the home team a solid platform to press for the win. However, led by Meara, Armas’ band of backups first re-took and then added to the lead.
Michael Murillo, who just a couple of weeks ago would have been a member of the “A” team before some shoddy play saw the Panamanian international banished to the bench, thought he had the go-ahead goal. Replays showed that the ball skipped off of Nealis’ head for the 58th-minute tally.
Meara made that slim lead hold up, earning Man of the Match honors, with his standout moment coming in the 71st minute with spectactular diving save from Zdenek Ondrasek.
Brian White ended Dallas’ comeback hopes when he finished a nice one-two with Omir Fernandez in the 85th minute to ensure Dallas’s first home loss of the season.
For fifth place Dallas this game was a missed opportunity to make up ground on fourth place Houston, who dropped a 1-0 decision to Seattle on Saturday, while the Red Bulls resilience gets them back on track, just two points below the Eastern Conference playoff line.
Momentum, good vibes. Whatever you want to call it, it can vanish in an instant, or for the New York Red Bulls, in a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact.
Wednesday night the New York Red Bulls hosted the Impact in the final game of a three-day home set. After a disappointing start to the season that saw the 2018 Supporters Shield winners sitting at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, New York’s MLS originals seemed to have righted the ship with consecutive wins versus FC Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Galaxy at Red Bull Arena.
The 1-0 victory over Cincinnati was merely the appetizer for the Bulls main course, a thrilling 3-2 defeat of the Zlatan Ibrahimovic led Galaxy, a win that cast Montreal as the dessert course in what would have been a rather tasty three game redemption dinner.
Montreal ends the momentum
Alas, Montreal put paid to all that with Wednesday night’s comeback win in front of a typically small mid-week RBA crowd. Despite the continued absence of the Red Bulls primary goal scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips, the home side opened briskly, putting immediate pressure on Evan Bush in the Montreal goal.
With Kaku available after serving his five game suspension for a wild kicked ball that struck a fan, New York coach Chris Armas elected to begin with his sides chief playmaker on the bench.
Afterward, High Press Soccer asked Armas if he had held Kaku out for a lack of match fitness? For Armas it seemed like a case of -if it’s not broke, why fix it?
“You know, he was match fit and training well,” the New York coach began. “He’s been with us all year here and we came out last game feeling pretty good, we felt like the same structure made sense and the players that started match for them to be out there.”
Armas’ theory was looking good with the home team starting well and they got their reward in the 36th minute when Long leaped highest to power home a header from a fine Marc Rzatkowski feed.
The Red Bulls 1-0 halftime lead seemed about right, and it was easy to imagine the home team walking away with the spoils 45 minutes hence.
But to their great credit Montreal, still without their best player Ignacio Piatti, and playing its ninth road game of 12 in 2019, were only too happy to upset the Red Bulls applecart, scoring twice in the second half while blunting the New York attack.
With no Piatti to turn to the Impact mimicked the Red Bulls approach– their big center-back Zakaria Diallo flicking home a header from a Max Urruti cross after Urruti took a pass from a dead ball situation.
Montreal would take the lead on an Urruti penalty conversion that came from a bad giveaway by Connor Lade, who has been one of New York’s best players in recent weeks, good enough to keep 2018 MLS All-Star fullback Michael Murillo glued to the bench of late.
Long ended up committing the foul on Jackson-Hammel to concede the pk, another moment in an event filled night for the big defender.
Urruti took his chance well for his first goal of 2019 and it would be enough to end the Red Bulls mini-streak and break their momentum as RBNY head to Texas for a Saturday date with FC Dallas.
Afterward, Long stood in front of his locker and described his injury as “super tight right now,” saying that he would be going for an MRI the following day (Thursday). The Red Bulls center back looked to be in considerable pain when he was helped off the pitch in the 76th minute and post-game Long admitted that this particular pain was a new feeling.
“No, never felt like that before,” a frustrated Long answered when High Press Soccer inquired. “Hoping it’s not too bad.” The Red Bulls will be hoping the same and while hamstrings can take a while to recover from Long conceded that “Saturday is probably unlikely.”
Having used up all their subs the Red Bulls finished with 10 men and could not find an equalizer. From a Red Bulls perspective it was undoubtedly a hard loss, with team slipping to 10th place in the Eastern Conference ahead of only Cincinnati, who just fired its coach, Alan Koch, and New England, who must surely be considering Brad Friedel’s position after consecutive losses of 5-0 Wednesday night to Chicago and 6-1 on Saturday versus Philadelphia.
NYRB adding some goal-scoring punch from RBII
But let’s end on a positive note. Earlier on Wednesday the Red Bulls announced the signing of forward Tom Barlow from Red Bulls II, the team’s USL representative.
With BWP out and backup Brian White suffering from a “soft tissue injury,” very much the in vogue malady of the moment, Barlow got the start. The 23-year-old was drafted out of Wisconsin prior to last season and he immediately lit up the USL, scoring 10 goals in 11 starts in 2018 and adding six before his call up to the big club this season.
Barlow admitted that despite the loss, that “ Yeah, couldn’t be more happy to make my debut tonight.” High Press Soccer asked if Barlow if he thought he’d scored on a second half effort that was blocked by an Impact defender.
“I hoped,” Barlow laughed. “Oh, yeah,” Barlow went on with a rueful grin. “I was hoping but uh, they might have called it offside, I think. But the goalie made a nice little play. But yeah, we’ve been nice. But unluckily, it didn’t go in.”
It was that kind of night for the Red Bulls who head to Dallas and another chance to get back that fleeting momentum, those elusive good vibes.