There’s no real evidence that Yago Pikachu is coming to New York in 2019, none at all. Though, rumors out of Brazil report interest from MLS clubs and Pikachu’s Instagram posts make a state-side move look imminent.
While it is plausible especially if Murillo leaves this winter, nullifying my whole argument here, it got me to thinking. What happens if instead of signing a “difference maker”, the Red Bulls instead pushed Michael Amir Murillo up to RW.
Start Michael Murillo at RW in 2019
Look, hear me out. I know Murillo’s future at the club is not certain considering reported European interest, but let’s just say he’s back in 2019.
Murillo’s style of play
Who is the best Red Bulls player in 1v1 situations? To me, it’s clearly Michael Murillo. Michael Murillo is the 21st best player in dribbles per game with 1.7, placing him first on the Red Bulls. Murillo is accustomed to making runs to involve himself with offense. The Panamanian international has also shown his abilities to not only beat outside backs 1v1, but embarrass them.
Murillo is deceptively quick with the ball at his feet and plays with what Jesse Marsch once called a “Tranquilo Mode”. As seen in the video above, he is comfortable working in tight spaces. Murillo is listed officially at 6’0, but there is no way he isn’t at least 6’2. All this to say, he has a great build for a winger. He is a powerful dribbler that runs directly at defenders. His quick feet puts defenders off balance and his long legs create separation.
Do the Red Bulls create enough from wide areas?
The Red Bulls rank 19th and 17th in the categories of successful dribbles per game and attempted dribbles per game. A statistic that doesn’t really hold much weight alone in regards to results or overall success. It’s really no surprise considering how the Red Bulls play. Red Bull soccer is pragmatic and is played narrowly through the heart of the field. But, thats the very reason why this move could prove fruitful.
In 2018, wide Red Bulls players didn’t consistently get down the touchline and take on their opposing number. Daniel Royer’s skillset sees him best play as a pseudo-secondary striker, but what is the use if he isn’t getting service on the back-post or in his cutting runs across the box?
The Red Bulls do utilize crosses frequently, ranking 9th in crosses per game. But, they are usually low percentage crosses. They either come from deep or from when central midfielders on the corner of the 18 hit BWP in-between the center backs.
The Red Bulls already use the right side of the field disproportionately, 43% of the time, ranking first in MLS in right side use. They use the left side of the field just 33% of the time, ranking 21st. Why is that? All in order to get Michael Murillo touches on the ball and get Royer into positions where he can play as a forward.
But the fact of the matter is that Murillo is still not playing high enough to get in dangerous enough positions, at least consistently. Murillo moving higher up the field could also cause more turnovers and havoc in the press. A natural defender, Murillo’s tackling would obviously be a cut above any Red Bull attacker. His height could also bring an added aerial threat for the Red Bulls in the 18-yard box.
First things first, the Red Bulls need to hold onto Murillo in the winter transfer window.
Secondly, Armas could experiment with this in preseason as well as the opening round of the Concacaf Champions League. This is also contingent upon the Red Bulls sticking with a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Let’s say the Red Bulls do sign Yago Pikachu, the right side of the field for New York would be lethal. Both players would have the ability to play RW and RB, meaning the two could interchange positions in-game. Even without Pikachu, Kyle Duncan proved a more than serviceable asset at right back in 2018, albeit in a small sample size.
The biggest road block in front of my idea, a problem teams would kill for, is the abundance of talented midfielders. Alex Muyl had a late season flurry of great performances. Andreas Ivan’s salary reflects high hopes for the Romanian winger who looked exciting in his short cameo vs. Atlanta. Florian Valot was on his way to a remarkable season before his ACL injury. Derrick Etienne Jr. is also a player with high upside and an ability to change games.
Am I crazy? Let me know.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography