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Red Bulls midfield embraces freedom to create more attacking success



Photo by Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports


For a majority of their unbeaten start, much has been made of the defensive prowess of the New York Red Bulls midfield and the constant pressure they apply on the defensive end. However, Sunday’s performance against the LA Galaxy was yet another reminder that the Red Bulls unit has the ability to get forward as well, even its goal came via a lucky bounce.

In Sunday night’s 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy, it was Felipe that proved to be the Red Bulls goalscorer, etching his name as the sixth different Red Bull to find the back of the net in as many games.

With the goal, Felipe joins Beadley Wright-Phillips, Mike Grella, Lloyd Sam, Sacha Kljestan and Damien Perinelle in this list of Red Bulls goalscorers, demonstrating once again that the team’s midfield group can do much more than pressure the opposition.

While the group’s pressing style remains its calling card, Felipe and co. also take the opportunity to get forward and contribute on the attacking end, something that paid major dividends in Felipe’s positioning on the Red Bulls goal.

“We’ve been working on the defensive part, but that time I followed the action,” Felipe said of his finish, one that saw a blocked shot bounce off his face in the perfect example of right place, right time. “The ball came right to my head. That was the goal. I was completely lucky, but the important thing is that I scored. I don’t score many.”

Felipe himself may not score many, but the Red Bulls have found ways to spread the wealth as a team, ensuring that this season’s team is well-stocked with weapons as opposed to the Thierry Henry-reliant squads of years past.

In particular, the midfield has proven particularly dangerous behind the ever-active Wright-Phillips, as head coach Jesse Marsch has given his unit the freedom to attack at each player’s discretion.

“I think he just lets us be free and move around and he wants guys like Sacha and Felipe in the box and then it’s up to the players when they’re on the field to freestyle and get forward when they can,” Sam said. “It’s not really like robot commands that he gives players on the attack anyway.

“I would give credit to Felipe on the goal for actually being there. He lets us do what we want on the attack, if I’m being honest.”

Despite the recent successes, captain Dax McCarty believes that there is still plenty of work to be done.

McCarty admits that the Red Bulls have become plenty confident, and at times even too much so, in their ability to boss a game and make an impact on the attacking end. For McCarty and the Red Bulls, the challenge now comes in consistency and improvement, something that will come in time for a unit still adjusting and learning under a new system.

“We’re all comfortable players on the ball. Sometimes maybe a bit too much,” McCarty said. “I know personally I got caught on the ball a few times in the second half in positions where I shouldn’t have given the ball away, but I think that’s our job is to get the ball in tough spots and try to get the team out of tough situations and get us forward and try and create chances.

“I have confidence in Sacha and Felipe and I think they have confidence in me. Our whole team, we realize that we’re on the same page and we’re trying to dominate games and I think to a certain extent, it’s been fairly successful. But, at the same time, we can be better.”


  1. Made it out to the stadium and I thought it was a great game. 3 shots on goal, really? I dunno, it seemed like a lot more than that. In fact I thought they were very unlucky to not walk away 3-1 winners.

    I also have to say our soccer team got to walk the Player’s out onto the field. The NYRB are an absolute first class organization The kids had their own locker room, each had their own chair, locker, and uniform laid out waiting for them. Then while waiting in the tunnel, up comes the team. My two boys got to hold hands with Dax and Robles. Both couldn’t have been kinder or more sincere with the kids. Both players took the time to high five and really talk to them. My younger son talked to Dax about his gavotte position the my older son told Robles he liked his cleats. It may not sound like much but these kids were in awe. I’ve met a few pros who were real jerks in my time bit these two were pure class all the way.

  2. I think a lot of success the NYRB are having is due to the fact that, with new personal and a new coach, we are seeing new defensive formations and a new offensive schema.A lot of this is catching some teams by surprise, but other teams have made some adjustments. A good example is the high pressure the Red Bull the defensive as they adjust from a defensive mode to an offensive mode. There was a lot of pressure on De La Garza, Gonales and the other backs as the Galaxy went into transition, in some cases leading to a possession turnover and in other cases, putting the Galaxy midfielders pinned against the sidelines or have to pass through high traffic. In some cases the Galaxy were able to break the press by getting their back line to lob over the pressure or into space for the LA midfield.

    The whole problem here is that the better tactical minds in the MLS will, sooner or later, develop the tactics to overcome this simple yet effective game plan. The other is fitness. Close marking and high pressure can be tiring. Most teams apply this pressure at select times in a game. THE NYRB seem to be applying the pressure all the time, at least in the first half. This pressure backed off a bit in the second half and the galaxy were able to pass their way out of trouble, something they were failing at in the first half. It will be interesting to see how the other Eastern conference team make the necessary tactical adjustments and how the NYRB will adjust

    • You’re giving RBNY both too much and too little credit. They haven’t come up with some brand-new tactics that have their opponents flummoxed. They’re just applying some tactics that are new for this team and executing them very, very well.

    • Not so sure the “new personnel” are having that much of an impact. BWP, Sam, McCarty and Robles have been the force behind this excellent start. They are all holdovers from last year. The high pressure approach is working,…but as you point out,…for how long? Where Marsh has earned his salt is in the back. Going into the season I would have guessed that teams would be going all ‘Baltimore’ on the back line. But they have been steady. Miazga has been a revelation and Lawrence a solid addition. Kudos to Marsh.

      That said,…LA was playing with 10 men and were without Keane,…so I am not so sure Sunday was the real thing. Colorado might be.

  3. Without taking anything away from the Red Bulls, who certainly look to be very competitive this year, it strikes me as rather silly to write a column extolling the attacking prowess of a team that, when all was said and done, produced only three shots on target.

  4. agreed grella and and sizzo aren’t getting the job done. They need a threatening left wing to challenge the defense or at least pull defenders away from WP who is always double teamed. We need someone like Henry without Henry baggage.

  5. NYRB have looked pretty solid, but attack is not clinical or lethal. You aren’t going to replace that central trio causing so much havoc, and you won’t replace BWP or Sam. They need to find a good DP left winger who can do that for them if they want to challenge for a title. Probably won’t find one either; not easy to come by.


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