Know Your Enemy: New York Red Bulls
OTF’s Stephen Mangat drinks a pint glass of vodka with a shot of ‘energy drink’ every morning…
The Oxford English Dictionary attributes the first use of the word bullshit to poet T. S. Eliot, who wrote the poem “The Triumph of Bullshit”. While coining the a classic cuss word is undoubtedly impressive, Eliot is probably better known for The Wasteland which begins, “April is the cruellest month”.
Having lost badly in Vancouver and drawn at home with Colorado, the New York Red Bulls are finding March to be pretty crap as well. With NYRB down, it’s time, Fire fans, to show them fear with a handful of dust in the eyes and by kicking some sand in their face…
PLAY OUR NEW MUSIC FOR THIS SEASON!!!
Throughout last season’s Supporters’ Shield-winning campaign, man-of-many-cardigans Mike Petke showed impressive tactical flexibility as he not only changed his lineup, but also changed his formation. With a host of weapons at his disposal, Petke tried all types of things: defensive midfielder Dax McCarty on the left but pinching in, Tim Cahill behind Thierry Henry up top, 4-4-2 diamond, striker Peguy Luyindula as playmaker, etc. This weekend, expect a something a bit more straightforward (4-4-2) in terms of formation, with the wrinkles coming from player movement.
Luis Robles will be in goal and he’s a typical, solid MLS goalie. It’s worth noting that video game (and arbiter of soccer knowledge) FIFA 2014 rates him as a 69 diving, 59 handling, 59 kicking, 63 positioning and 70 reflexes. That’s all one needs to know.
While Jamison Olave is probably the league’s best center back, the rest of the group is questionable. Roy Miller can get up and down the field well on the left, but lacks focus sometimes. Bobby Convey isn’t a defender, and has been past his best for five years. New men Armando and Richard Eckersley have been mediocre so far. Though Armando grew up in the Barcelona system, and Eckersley was raised at Manchester United, there’s a reason why they are no longer there. This is New York’s weakness.
Expect a diamond-ish midfield from NYRB, with Tim Cahill attacking and Dax McCarty defending. On the outside will be either Convey or Jonny Steele on the left, with Eric Alexander or Lloyd Sam on the right. Steele and Alexander play a more direct, physical style, with the latter player having all-star level talent. Fire fans should hope Convey plays.
It’s the Thierry Henry show. He’s still one of the league’s best and it’s damn impressive that he’s so good at 36 and basically in his 20th year of professional soccer. Whoever joins him (Bradley Wright-Phillips, Peguy Luyindula, some random joker) is just a foil to the great man. Henry will float all around the field to get the ball, whilst the other attacker will be more direct and keep the back line honest.
How can Chicago win?
Challenge the defenders frequently
The Red Bulls are pretty much the same team as last year’s Supporters Shield winning side, save for some defensive changes. Olave is still around, which is a huge plus, and he didn’t play in the season opening beating at Vancouver. Nonetheless, the Fire will do well to pressure NY’s defenders every chance they have.
Foul Henry smartly
Henry is the hub through which Red Bulls’ attack moves, and one need not be a tactical genius to know what he likes to do: collect the ball out wide facing the defense, take on defenders, and make things happen. Fire defenders and midfielders would be well-served to physically intervene (i.e., kick him) the moment he gets the ball near midfield. It’ll keep him (and the NYRB attack) from gaining momentum and allow Chicago time to get behind the ball.
Stay focused defensively
New York’s attacking prowess is generated from smart movement by their players. Henry floats around the field and creates space for himself and teammates, particularly Tim Cahill, who charges into the areas vacated by Henry. Dax McCarty, while not a huge threat, will dictate a game by constantly supporting teammates and efficiently moving the ball all around the field. With that in mind, Chicago’s midfielders need to stay with their men and communicate effectively with their teammates in defense.
Good luck, Fire fans. It’s your home opener, so get fired up and so drunk on $2 beers that you won’t remember how cold you are or which horse you rode into town on.
OTF’s Stephen Mangat is a Philly Union season ticket holder, a certified Elvis impersonator and won the bronze in dressage at the ’88 Seoul Olympics. Follow him @smangat12.