A cold night, a rambunctious crowd, an elimination match, and one confident group. The New York Red Bulls’ head coach Chris Armas and his team made sure history wouldn’t repeat itself again on Sunday night.
Aggressive Armas rewrites history
Everyone knew the stakes. Win by two and keep a clean sheet. Armas also knew that Gregg Berhalter had out coached him in the teams two previous meetings. The Crew won both matches, including a win at Red Bull Arena back on July 28th. The Crew handed Armas his only home loss since taking over for Jesse Marsch in July.
Sunday proved different.
It started from the whistle, RBNY relentlessly pursuing the ball and giving the Crew no room to breathe for the first 30 minutes of the match. Tyler Adams played like well Tyler Adams, that makes sense right? In a sense that he harassed USMNT teammate Wil Trapp and Artur into poor decisions, which was all part of Armas’ plan.
“We pushed Tyler higher up the field,” RBNY head coach Chris Armas said. “Wil Trapp and Artur, those guys they’re not just good on the ball, they’re the outlet all the time for how they break pressure, break our pressure, and we said we can’t let it happen again. Pushing Tyler higher along with Kaku and pressing the way we did, I thought was the big difference.”
The “fearless” Muyl made a big difference. Muyl collected a goal and an assist in a big match.
“[Muyl] is, we talk about being fearless,” Armas sad. “It helps if you put guys on the field that are fearless. Their starting points are that, he doesn’t back down from the moment and he’s up for it all the time. We have seen that in him for the last few years.”
That sums up how Armas wanted the team to play on the night. It also summed up the first 30 minutes of the match. RBNY played their style in their building while the Crew played to not lose instead of to win. They would grow back into the match over the last 15 minutes in the first half and Armas had some adjustments to make during the half.
“We knew in transition there would be some moments we could slow down a little bit more,” Armas said. “There’s some little things in there tactically that we were letting slip in our pressing and we had to address that a little bit. Some of it involves the back line moving up and just some little things.”
The Crew had their spells early on, but Adams had a golden chance to put RBNY on top after some great work from Michael Murillo, but the midfielder shot over the bar. Still Armas’ team continued to remain aggressive and it paid off with a beautiful team goal capped off by Daniel Royer.
In the end, the young players carried the night. Wright-Phillips and Kaku played supporting roles to the homegrown commodities. BWP was full of praise for the young guys in the team.
“These guys are fearless, you’ve got Tyler, Sean, these are in center midfield.” Wright-Phillips said. “You know how hard that is to play all season long against some veterans in the league and these guys just go out there with no fear. Even after mistakes they just come and bounce back. It’s unbelievable to see because old guys like me think what if…or if they did score, I’d be like here we go again but these guys don’t even have that in their mind. They just go out and play and give guys like me and our team the same confidence. It’s amazing.”
The second goal forced the Crew to chase the match. That meant space began to open up. Armas had encouraged his guys to go out and play with freedom which was on full display after they had taken the lead on aggregate.
“We like the guys to play with freedom.” Armas said. “What a thing of beauty if the guys can go out there and just play. And the way they got that second goal all of a sudden there’s these little back heels, there’s all this stuff going on and you sit back and you love it because now they’re playing free.”
The Crew left Kaku plenty of space to pick out Royer on the left side. The midfielder still had plenty to do, but he lashed a shot past Zack Steffen and sealed the victory. The Crew had no way back. The goal put the naysayers bed, RBNY were on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
“It’s for the outside to kind of judge what they think and it’s fair to think, well, maybe the Red Bulls don’t have enough,” Armas said. “I don’t get so caught up with that. I can say that there’s a lot of belief in our room, in our locker room. There’s a lot of belief. And we know that this team is different than ever. I think tonight was another example of that.”
History may not be on this team’s side, but history doesn’t win matches, teams do. Right now, RBNY are still the team to beat in MLS and showed it on Sunday night.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography