New York Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas spoke to the media yesterday about the dialogue among the team and the threw the word confident around quite a bit as the team prepares for the decisive leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal at Red Bull Arena on Sunday. Despite the history that has surrounded the team over the past 22 years, there is no reason that he shouldn’t feel like this is a winnable game.
Armas “Confident” of Playoff Comeback and He Should Be
“The dialogue within the team is that going into the game we are confident,” said Armas. “At home over the 21 games, with Open Cup, Champions League… It’s a really good winning record at home. Maybe 17 wins of the 21. And does the day require a shutout from us or not, we’ve had a lot of shutouts at home too. So, the guys have a lot of confidence. We can see that today.”
Armas isn’t wrong. He is currently coaching the greatest regular season team in franchise and league history. They won a total of 14 games in Harrison and haven’t allowed a goal since August 5th against LAFC. That is five straight clean sheets and should give any team confident that they can rebound from a one goal deficit at home. This is why team’s play so hard during the regular season and why the advantage should sit on the team hosting the second leg of the playoff at home.
The other side of the coin is that the Red Bulls have been here before with impressive teams and against this same competition. While the New York side of things appears much different from the team in 2015, Columbus has familiar faces like Frederico Higuain that still cause trouble. Gregg Berhalter as head coach also knows how to frustrate the dogmatic New York press and grab results when necessary.
“It’s much of what we’ve seen in the past,” said Armas about Columbus’ strategy. “We’ve seen the two forwards. We game-planned in case they went with two in Mullins, we thought they would bring in a few guys with fresh legs. So, we don’t think there were many surprises there and we thought we’d see Higuain at some point. You saw him. When he’s in the game things look a certain way. You’ve got to account for him.
“What we know and what we’ve seen from them is that it’s not one thing. They can play direct, they can try to stretch us in different ways. They certainly can build out of the back and unbalance you that way.”
The comments beg the question of what will New York change going into the second leg. If Columbus is predictable, than New York will have to show the ability to adapt. Thus far, since the 2015 makeover, they have yet to show an ability to successfully alter their strategy. It shows in the frustration of the coaches and players. While Armas may still have the belief, as well he should, the fans and media are once again doubting if the team is on course for another disappointing playoff exit.
“Some people might look at it as a bad result to lose the first game on the road but all-in-all it’s not that bad of a result,” said defender Tim Parker. “It’s obviously not a bad result to go down 1-0 and have the game put on our terms at home now.”
The confidence is commendable but the team will need to show that the game will be on their terms this Sunday as this game now represents a referendum on all the work that his been done between Jesse Marsch, Ali Curtis, Denis Hamlett and Chris Armas over the past four years.