After 20 shots from the New York Red Bulls and more than 40 clearances from the Chivas Guadalajara defense, Tuesday’s Concacaf Champions League semifinal second leg ended 0-0 at Red Bull Arena. Somehow, the home side, for all of their efforts and offensive firepower, did not score a single goal not just on the day, but over the two legs.
“It’s almost impossible that you can somehow not find a way to score a goal and find a way to be so dangerous around the goal all night long but not make that final play,” said Red Bulls boss Jesse Marsch.
Part of it may be down to the decisions Marsch himself made. The team’s record goalscorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips was not playing in his usual position at the head of the formation, but in a deeper number ten role, with Derrick Etienne and Daniel Royer playing in front of the Englishman. Though obviously the Red Bulls recorded many shots, it was certainly an odd decision when what the team needed was goals.
Marsch said it was counter the specific tactical nature.
“Chivas is a very unique team, tactically,” he said. “I’ve never seen a team play like this ever. It’s an interesting way that they do things and it makes it a very difficult team to break down, a very difficult team to score.”
It was also to keep defenders away from Wright-Phillips. T
“(The plan was) “o rotate [Wright-Phillips] underneath so that he wasn’t just being marked by a center back, but could find more space and to have to the guys in front of him really be aggressive and be on the run and play behind and put them on their heels,” Marsch said.
“When they go man-to-man, it’s hard for him to get away and find space. By putting another striker up there and having him float a little bit more underneath, he can catch balls, be facing the goal a little bit more, helping to put combinations and plays together, and then you know, the goal was also to have him joining in late for crosses, for balls in the box.”
Wright-Phillips himself thought he did what was asked of him.
“I wasn’t worried about the going forward part,” he said. “My worries coming into the game playing a number ten is the defending part and I think, overall, I’ve done okay.”
The plan also does not seem to be a one-off. “There will days where we can do that, where we can almost use him as a second striker or an underneath striker or a number ten,” Marsch said.
Wright-Phillips is fine with that decision. “I don’t mind,” the forward said. “Anywhere I can help the team win, I will.”
Despite any doubts from others, Marsch considers the experiment a job well done.
“In many ways, we achieved so much of what we wanted to achieve,” the coach said. “I thought they established themselves in the series as the better team, a very good team. And that this group has a really bright future.”