Photo by ISIphotos.com
Five goals allowed in one game.
Not three. Not four.
The New York Red Bulls defense hadn’t given up more than one goal in a game at home since the May 25th loss to Chicago (5-1). The Red Bulls had played seven home games since that debacle. You know how many combined goals they had given up in those seven home games?
Yes, Saturday night’s loss and defensive meltdown was the kind of event few could have imagined, which is why Red Bulls head coach Juan Carlos Osorio (and the die-hard fans who braved the elements to watch the disaster) walked away from Giants Stadium on Saturday night disgusted and at a loss for what went wrong.
So what happened? Here are a few things to consider:
Gabriel Cichero played what might have been the worst half of soccer any defender in Red Bulls history has ever had. Osorio employed a 3-5-2 formation with a central midfield of seth Stammler, Juan Pietravallo and Carlos Mendes hoping to stifle Colorado’s midfield and limit the chances the Rapids’ forwards would see. The game-plan relied heavily on the back-three to hold up against the Rapids’ forwards, with Cichero having the biggest responsibility because he was the centerback in the formation.
Rather than be a rock, Cichero was a wreck. It had nothing to do with playing a three-man defense rather than a four because Cichero has played well in a three before.
Cichero wasn’t alone in breaking down on the five Colorado goals. Here is a look back at all five goals:
First goal– a lofted ball in catches Cichero in no-man’s land and finds Casey. Conway comes off his line extremely late to close down Casey and doesn’t get the ball, allowing the deflected ball to find Omar Cummings, who finishes into an open net easily.
Second goal– A long Burpo goal-kick is won by Casey (who beats Cichero to it) and falls to Cummings, who delivers a perfect pass to Casey on the run. Casey’s run leaves Cichero beaten and he shakes off a late challenge from Mendes before beating Conway.
Third goal– Ballouchy swings in a corner kick and Cichero, with no pressure on him, chooses to flick head it behind himself rather than clearing it away. The ball falls to Mike Petke, who beats Conway from close range.
Fourth goal– Cummings outruns Jimenez on the right flank before whipping a cross in to a wide-open Casey (neither Cichero or Jeff Parke were near Casey), who heads it back to an on-running Nick LaBrocca. Juan Pietravallo races in from behind and clips LaBrocca in the area for a penalty. Casey converts the PK.
Fifth goal– Ballouchy races down the left flank, facing little pressure from Mike Magee, and delivers a perfect left-footed cross in to Casey, who beat Parke (who fell asleep long enough for Casey to get into position) and finished from 10 yards out for the hat-trick and victory.
So how much blame should Osorio shoulder for the loss? While he did tinker with the lineup, the changes he made were not directly related to the defensive collapse. He pushed Stammler forward, kept Rojas on the left and inserted Mendes in a defensive midfield role. Considering the offense produced four goals it is tough to argue with the Rojas and Stammler moves, while Mendes was not directly involved in any of the goals (he came in late on Colorado’s second goal but that was blown assignment was all Cichero).
You can certainly make the argument that Osorio is to be blamed for using a 3-5-2 rather than a 4-4-2, but that is a bit of 20/20 hindsight at work because I don’t think anybody would have predicted the type of meltdown Cichero had on Saturday. I’m pretty sure Osorio wouldn’t have used a three-man defense if he didn’t think Cichero could handle the job, and there had been no evidence before Saturday’s game to suggest that Cichero couldn’t.
What will Osorio do next? Cichero was signed to be the team’s go-to centerback and if he’s off form then Osorio will have no choice but to turn to Jeff Parke and Diego Jimenez in central defense, with Kevin Goldthwaite returning from suspension to play left back (Andrew Boyens is out for the Toronto match due to a yellow card suspension).
The club will catch a bit of a break by facing lowly Toronto FC next week, but that game is also essentially a must-win game because the three remaining games after that will be extremely tough.
Not everything was negative on Saturday. The offense looked good, and newcomers Mac Kandji and Matthew Mbuta looked really good. I will write a seperate post on the offense and the new guys later.
For now, feel free to share your thoughts on the defensive meltdown, and what’s next for the Red Bulls, in the comments section below.