Red Bulls focusing on defense ahead of Salt Lake test

The New York Red Bulls grabbed all three points in their home opener last weekend, but they know there are areas they need to improve heading into their second match of the season at Real Salt Lake, Saturday afternoon.

Head coach Chris Armas spoke to the need for minimizing mistakes, despite being satisfied with his team’s play overall.

“There’s lots to improve on all the time,” said Armas at practice Wednesday. “Looking back at the game a few times now, as we’ve analyzed it, I think what we are really happy to see is that our style of play, we were able to control many parts of the game with our pressing, our counter pressing and being aggressive…
“We’re happy that we scored three goals, and we want to make sure we tidy things up defensively. We don’t think goals that we concede are random. There’s little things in all the plays and chances that we give up that we can be better. For a first outing? Lots of positives. A big three points, a home victory, and we are off to a good start.”

Captain Sean Davis agreed with Armas’s assessment, specifically citing turnovers in dangerous areas as a main concern. Both goals the Red Bulls conceded to FC Cincinnati developed following a loss of possession and a failure to effectively close down the ensuing danger.

“I think the most important thing is knowing that bad turnovers can hurt us,” said Davis. “In the blink of an eye, a bad turnover turns us around, puts us in a difficult spot. We play with a really high line, and they were able to get in behind. That causes some problems, but it comes from our own errors, so we have to continue to be alert at all moments. We have to understand when we need to be smart with the ball, understand when it’s time to go long or whether it’s time to keep it. Being patient, but also understanding what the game requires is going to be important. We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with the giveaways at times, but again, for the majority of the game it was very good.”

A year ago, the Red Bulls suffered similar issues around defensive mistakes, and surrendering goals from winning positions remains a concern in 2020. Tim Parker leads the Red Bulls defense while Aaron Long remains sidelined. The third year center back noted the defensive unit needs to improve, but understands the process takes time. Fan’s patience may run thin if results start to pile up against the team, but if they can maintain consistent results, both the team and fans will be happy.

“Us, as a defensive unit, we weren’t very happy with two goals against,” said Parker from the Red Bulls training facility. “I mean, considering the chances they had all game, we didn’t feel like they had many. So, to give up two goals was disappointing, but three points is three points, and we want to build off that over the next couple of games.”

Will the Red Bulls be able to build off of their Week 1 success in Salt Lake? History does not favor them at Rio Tinto Stadium. The team has not won their in more than a decade, dating back to the Western Conference Final in 2008. Current NYRBII coach John Wolyniec started that match, and contributed to the winning goal scored by Dave Van den Bergh, sending the Red Bulls to the MLS Cup Final for the first time in their history.

If they can address their defensive lapses, this might be the time.

Photo by Shivant Krishnan

About Joseph Goldstein

Joseph Goldstein is the managing editor of RBNN as well as the co-host of the Seeing Red and Raising Bulls podcasts.

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