The whistle had blown for the end of the first half on a windy and rainy Saturday night at Red Bull Arena. Most of the New York Red Bulls faithful were once again puzzled at the team’s performance over the first 45 minutes. For the third straight game in a row under head coach Chris Armas, RBNY went into halftime tied.
Same system, different mentality
Armas had made a couple of changes to lineup as he started Michael Murillo at right back and the hero from last week Marc Rzatkowski next to Sean Davis. Tyler Adams moved to the outside.
The team’s only chance would come two minutes in when Aaron Long’s header off a corner hit the crossbar, there wasn’t much else to speak of. Luis Robles had to make one big save to deny Teal Burnbury, it would be the captain’s only save of the game. The lack of end product in the first half echoed the previous match. Armas showed no signs of worry.
“I think on the inside over here, we’re much more comfortable with that first half the way it looked than many on the outside,” RBNY coach Chris Armas said in the post game press conference. “In a lot of ways, we felt in control and okay with what it looked like. You know, it was just a matter of slowing down and making some plays.”
Robles echoed Armas’ mindset and thought that the team regrouping in the locker room helped prepare them for the second half.
“It ended up playing out the way we thought all week it would,” RBNY goalkeeper Luis Robles said after the match. “The first forty-five minutes were just going to be about winning duel, competing for second balls – they were going to be very competitive. We felt like if we could just be patient and get to half-time zero-zero we’d be in a good spot. The talk coming out of halftime is to stay disciplined, not get frustrated. We saw they’re goal chart – they concede a lot in the second half.”
Second half surge
The second half started, no changes made by Armas, but his team took control. Murillo and Adams caused problems down the right hand side with the former nearly putting RBNY in the lead with a couple of his chances.
“In my mind, it’s crazy because this guy’s in Russia playing in a World Cup, and he has to come back and play in a half empty stadium in Red Bull Arena,” Robles said “I’m sure there’s a let-down, but he continues to go about his business like a professional and he had a huge impact on the game today.”
The passes were connecting, the pressure was building and it wasn’t long before RBNY were in front. Rzatkowski’s free kick found Daniel Royer on the back post and just like the second half the week before RBNY had the opposition on their heels.
“Marc, we know, serves a great ball,” Armas said “That’s why we have him on a lot of set pieces. He’s around the ball a lot and he whips in a good ball and Danny sniffs it out. It’s not lucky, really. Danny has a knack and puts himself in a good spot and gets good timing and buries it.”
Bradley Wright-Phillips would put the game out of reach 11 minutes later with his 99th goal of his career.
Evolution under Armas
While many fans enjoyed the quick strike mentality under former manager Jesse Marsch, Armas has brought his own mentality to the team, a 90 minute mentality. RBNY haven’t exactly controlled the first half under their new head coach, but over the course of the 90 minutes they have made adjustments, kept their focus and been patient in their build up play. Not to mention they’ve dominated the second half. It may not be what the RBNY faithful want to see, but so far they can’t argue with the results.
“I think the team throughout this year has shown that we can win in many different ways, from behind, even, second half, we can hold on to leads,” Armas said. “We found many ways. So we’re fit; our subs come on and do a good job, and we have an ability and belief to push games and know that we can make plays. I think it’s another night where we show what we’re made of and that we’re fearless and that we can go after games, and there’s a lot of belief.”
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography