Chris Armas is only three games into his tenure as head coach of the New York Red Bulls. That is not nearly long enough to judge his body of work, but some interesting changes have started to manifest.
The high press, a hallmark of Jesse Marsch’s time with the club, has shifted down a gear a bit under Armas. That doesn’t mean that it has disappeared, but it has slowed a bit. Armas spoke to this indirectly after the match Saturday.
“I think on the inside over here,” said Armas. “We’re much more comfortable with that first half the way it looked than many on the outside. 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.”
What is changing under Armas?
Those words are foreign to the Red Bulls body of work this season, especially under Jesse Marsch. A style hinted at during Marsch’s introductory press conference with the team. Marsch said the team would play like an “energy drink”. Though he faced criticism for the statement, he formed a team that fit the bill. The Red Bulls forced the issue in 2018, storming out of the gates and creating chaos. The Red Bulls played quickly, forcing teams into difficult situations and reaping the benefits.
Throughout the first half of the season, the results speak for themselves. The Red Bulls style brought the team success. When teams did find ways to shut them down, they held stedfast to the high energy, high press style. When Armas took over the team for Marsch a few weeks ago, few predicted there would be much in the way of change for the Red Bulls, but things are changing.
Armas asks the team to be patient. Look to control the match in the latter stages of the match. The Red Bulls fitness is the reason they are able to maintain their high press throughout a 90 minute match, and now Armas is using it to overwhelm teams as they slow down. There are echoes of Ben Olsen’s parting shot after D.C. United forced a late draw at Red Bull Arena in 2016.
“We said at halftime, you don’t have to throw the sink too early against teams that play this way because you’ll still get chances,” said Olsen. “They’ll at times leave themselves exposed.”
The statement seemed like a condemnation on everything Marsch had implemented. Something to worry about despite the team’s success. It is possible Armas shared those worries. Whether it is his adjustments within the match, or the team settling down over time, it is plain to see that the second half is where the Red Bulls shine under Armas.
Looking at the high level stats, the truth is, not much has changed under Armas in any significant way just yet. Armas hold advantage in average possession per match by less than one percent (50.7% v. 49.9%). He also holds the advantage in chances created per match by a small fraction (10.7 v. 10.5). The Red Bulls under Armas score less, tackle less, shoot less, and complete passes less. All of these differences though are by insignificant amounts.
The only place they match up so far is in points per game. Both Armas and Marsch average two points per game, and it will be interesting to see if the former can keep up the pace for the long haul.
For now, all Red Bull fans can do is wait and see.
We asked you what you thought of Chris Armas after his first three matches. Here’s what you had to say:
— Red Bulls News Network (@RBNewsNetwork) July 23, 2018
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography