The 2nd Half Tactician

Chris Armas showed a difficulty game planning again Saturday night. The New York Red Bulls slow start finally caught up with them. While it was difficult to watch the Red Bulls struggle, there are some signs that Armas is learning from these growing pains.

The 2nd Half Tactician

If you watched the game against the Columbus Crew SC from Red Bull Arena or on MSG, the lack of striker depth on the New York Red Bulls is obvious.

Bradley Wright-Phillips sits alone on an island by himself. While Red Bulls may have depth elsewhere they are sorely lacking at striker.

The Red Bulls came off a 3 day rest after a win at D.C. United. The also came off short rest, 3 days, following their win against Sporting Kansas City at home. Fatigue was a factor going into the game, there is no denying that. Wight-Phillips, amongst a few others deserved the rest.

However, moving Derrick Etienne Jr up top was not the answer. To his credit, Etienne had inspirational moments, but proved he is no replacement for Wright-Phillips. There was a void at the top where Wright-Phillips should be. Chris Armas did have praise for Etienne though.

“He’s done well, and he always gets himself in good spots even in the first half tonight,” said Armas after the match. “It’s not easy to play against big athletic center backs, and that was a tough task for him. He still puts himself in good spots where he looks dangerous, and he flirts with the line and he gets in behind.”

The problem starts with line-up and the formation. Chris Armas tried three centerbacks. Armas spoke about this change in the post game conference saying the following

A lot of what we looked at was the last time we played them,” said Armas. “And you know the typical 4-2-3-1 and their system and their style of play challenged us on that day. We thought we got exposed at their place that way. The 2nd half of that game if I remember, is yeah a 5-1-3-1 the exact formation we started with tonight, and we really put things in our terms at their place in that same structure. Tonight was the opposite.”

With the high-pressure and high-energy soccer that the Red Bulls play, three centerbacks kills any forward momentum. The lack of Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra there to help create those chances made the team suffer. Adams and Rzatkowski tried to fill the playmaker role, but ultimately came up empty.

At the end of the first half the Red Bulls were down 3-0, and Chris Armas changed everything. In came Bradley Wright-Phillips and ‘Kaku’ for Sean Davis and Aurelien Collin.

Red Bulls went from a 44% possession, to 53% in the second half.  They had 13 shots with five on goal, five shots blocked, and had an overall passing accuracy of 75%.

Columbus had 56% possession at the start and ended with 47%. Columbus took 10 shots, 3 on goal, 4 shots blocked, and had a overall passing accuracy of 74%

The team came alive and brought the game to within one goal, but could not climb back from three goals down. The Red Bulls have a full week to recover for the game against a tough opponent LAFC.

Chris Armas is a different coach than Jesse Marsch. How the team plays and reacts changed under Armas. Despite being the assistant, there is a learning curve. Expect Chris takes this lesson in stride exactly how he learned from the New York City FC game.

The world isn’t burning just because the Red Bulls conceded more than two goals for the first time since March 31st against Orlando City SC. In fact, the Red Bulls remain stable in the standings. Things could be worse, just ask fans in D.C. and San Jose.

Photo by Bill Twomey Photography

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