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Red Bulls acknowledge need to improve sputtering attack

Mike Grella New York Red Bulls 62

photo by Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports


HARRISON, N.J. — The games are adding up, but the goals are not for the New York Red Bulls. Not in abundance, anyway.

The Red Bulls suffered a setback via a 2-0 home loss to the Philadelphia Union on Sunday, and it was a familiar problem that opened the door for the surprise defeat. The Red Bulls failed to convert any of their chances, a result of some bad luck but also some bad finishing and impatience.

The Red Bulls were the better side for large stretches of the Eastern Conference affair, but found it tough to breakdown a Union team that sat back and looked to hit back on the counter. New York was unfortunate to hit the post twice in the first half, but struggled mightily throughout the 90 minutes to create real quality scoring opportunities.

The club now has just five goals in its last six matches – and no more than two goals in any one game this year – and was quick to point out Sunday that offensive improvements are needed.

“In this process we need to continue to figure out when we play in games like this how to be more effective and how to be a little more dangerous and how to create a few more clear chances,” said Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch. “Some of that is going to come with crosses, some of that is going to play with quick combination play along the line, some of it’s going to come from set pieces, so we need to continue to iron out some of those details and get better.

“Overall, it was pretty clear that we had command of that game. It’s just that now they made us pay for a couple of mistakes and we couldn’t make them pay.”

Much of the talk surrounding the Red Bulls up until now has been about their effective high-pressing style. New York began the season by forcing opposing teams into a number of mistakes deep in their own ends and punishing them, but clubs have begun to adjust and make life more difficult for Marsch’s side.

The Union were the latest team to do that, laying out a blueprint of sorts on how to beat, or at least limit, the Red Bulls. Instead of trying to win the possession battle, Philadelphia opted to defend with numbers in an organized and physical fashion while looking to hit on the counter.

The gameplan worked to a tee. The Union lost the possession battle handily – 66.1 to 33.9 percent – but won where it counted thanks to goals from Vincent Nogueira and C.J. Sapong that were separated by five minutes.

The Red Bull’s attacking quartet of Bradley Wright-Phillips, Sacha Kljestan, Lloyd Sam and Mike Grella mustered little in response.

“I think we have this high-pressing motto, but then we have to also understand when teams sit back that we have to have more patience,” said Kljestan when asked about the inability to break down defensive-minded teams. “We can’t just be going a million miles an hour and losing the ball and then leaving so much space at our back. I think we need to be a bit more smart about the way we go about things that way.

“We have a lot of experienced players and we need to let that come through in these important games.”

Demonstrating more patience and being sharper in the final third might be starting points, but the Red Bulls know that more than that will be needed in order to be better in the attack on a more consistent basis.

“The four up front need to do probably a bit more creating goals and taking chances and being more ruthless,” said midfielder Sam, who was held largely in check by Union left back Fabinho. “Me, Brad, Mike, and Sacha, that’s on us. We’ve got to keep working at it.”


  1. until Marsch continue being delusional (like asking who is Dani Osvaldo) we will have a problem growing larger and larger.
    Note to Marsch…instead of making a full of yourself, next time google and do some research on who is D. Osvaldo is. When you have players like that (or better) available you pick up your phone and make it happen when you only have 1 proven forward on the team with more than half of the season to go! BWP will have bad games or days offs once in a while…he is a human but we got noone on the bench or in starting 11 next to him who can cover the for much needed goal scoring when he is not doing it!

  2. Dude,…I think you are barking up the wrong tree. Robles, McCarty, Sam and BWP are the reason the team is decent. They need a little depth and maturity in the back and a game changer to work with BWP, Sam, McCarty and Klestijan.

    • Yep. Dax is a strength, not a weakness. And your proposed fixes are spot on. Tim Ream would look great in red and white.

  3. … The Red Bulls pressing came cannot continue with Dax McCarty at the base, IMHO. He is a defensive liability.
    The issue is, he is the team captain, and from what i’m seeing, he is a defensive liability, because he keep giving the ball away, which leads to immediate counters; or his forward passing is missed timed of poorly directed. The Red Bulls need better, if they expect to win the Cup, FINALLY

  4. I was at the match, but only on the replay did Miller’s errors become evident. He *jogged* back after his giveaway put Maidana in on goal, lost his man on the first Union goal, and then did both on the second goal. That jogging is the antithesis of this RBNY team. Hoping the defense gets healthy soon, and that RBNY are prepared to loosen the purse strings this summer.

    • Miller was dreadful but to be fair to him he’s been injured all season and was playing out of position, alongside RBNY’s fourth choice CB. Still, that doesn’t excuse lack of hustle and RB’s cheapness is beginning to have consequences with the lack of depth on this roster.

      Any word on how long Lawrence will be out? He’s arguably been the player of the season for this team so far and Connor Lade is not an adequate replacement.

  5. RBNY did create enough chances to win, but the loss showed their flaws in sharp relief. Central defense remains a need (Roy Miller’s marking on the second goal was shameful), and they need someone to get the ball to BWP in dangerous spots. BWP should not be tracking back to midfield to get the ball. Curtis and company will show their true colors this summer with their decisions about DPs. If this roster is the same in September, expect a revolt.

  6. First of all, the high pressing that RBNY used so effectively in the first few games vanished after the first half. Philadelphia was actually garbage in the first 45; picked apart mercilessly, especially by Grella. A Grella curler that hit the post and a Felipe shot that hit the post: both results of great buildup play, and the keeper was frozen on both counts. If those go in, it’s a very different game.

    But they did not go in.

    And there seemed to be no plan for the second half. RBNY kept possession, but stopped pressing. Union played deep and scored on great counters (with Roy F-ing Miller watching the second tap-in from three feet away).

    But RBNY’s lack of tactics are shocking. Union adjusted, and Red Bulls keep trying to do the same thing, but now two goals down. (Also, Conner Lade coming on for an injured Kemar Lawrence was unfortunate. Lade is way out of his depth. Zero creativity.)
    BWP is completely misused, playing isolated in the center of the field. Kljestan is absolutely useless. How dies this guy play at an international level is astonishing. He loses the ball constantly, is slow, and seems weak.

    But I can live with that. I cannot live with Dane Richards being the sub. He’s not even the fastest guy on the field anymore! This is the only sub RBNY has?? You take out McCarty, which means you lose the ability to hold the ball in the midfield, and you put on a guy who blunders down the wing and crosses blindly to a defender who boots it away.

    So…there are two DP spots open, yes?

    • Well said Conrad. The Bulls really could have used the calming presence of Titi last night and they definitely need a DP like him.

    • Funny,…the lack of tactical acumen was what doomed Petke. Is Marsh a one trick pony?

      I hope the team gets it sorted,…but the big signings, Klestjian and Felipe are average players,…nothing more, nothing less. I heard the announcers say that Jesse Marsh believes that Klestjian is only getting started. Well get on with it,…brother, we are waiting. The team has taken 17 of 33 points,…barely above 50%. It’s time to get going.

      • To be fair, Petke had a lot more talent on his teams before ownership decided to put away its checkbook.

      • Slow,

        The comment is not about talent. The perception was that the team lacked strategic vision and tactical discipline under Petke. Perhaps. That said,…beyond saying the team is going to play a pressing style game,…what else has Marsh shown? If he doesn’t know how to make in game adjustments,…what good is his initial approach to a game? What if Petke announced he was going to play a high pressure style….would that have made any difference?

        For sure TH papered over a lot of cracks but Petke had to manage the team WITH Henry. That was a task unto itself.

        Whatever. I hope the team starts to win. I am very happy for Robles, McCarty, Sam and BWP. If nothing else, Marsh deserve credit for brining on Lawrence. He has been a real find. All they need to do is get Timmy Ream and Zlatan. What a show that would be!! Add Ream’s versatility, passing ability and experience to the back line and Zlatan,….well, what is there to say,…he would hit NJ/NY and MLS like a hurricane.

      • True but the complete lack of depth has meant pretty much the same XI every week. Miazga has improved although I don’t know that Marsch had anything to do with that.

        Felipe was Marsch’s guy and he has been pretty underwhelming. He takes every set piece and about 90% of them are just poor – once in a while he puts one in a good spot but it needs to be better.

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