HARRISON, N.J. – Breaking down opposing teams that are content with sitting in and hitting back on the counter is a lesson the New York Red Bulls need to learn.
The Red Bulls admitted as much following their frustrating scoreless draw against rivals Philadelphia on Saturday night, a result that saw them put only three shots on goal and marked the fifth time that New York have been shut out in their last nine games.
Those alarming statistics could easily be overshadowed by the fact that the Red Bulls are currently near the top of the Eastern Conference. But the club is well aware that it needs to find ways to be more dangerous against teams with defensive-minded strategies, especially since New York are likely to see that more often than not.
“I said when I went in the locker room, I take responsibility for the fact that we need to figure out when teams come and sit in, especially down the middle, clog the middle instead of going side to side,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told reporters postgame.
“[We need to figure out] how to dissect that, how to get forward instead of having two separate teams on the field, a forward line of four or five guys and a back line making lateral passes. That’s on me. That’s definitely on me.”
Ball movement was a main part of the issues on Saturday night. New York admitted that they felt they were too sluggish in getting the ball forward and that hindered their ability to create quality chances from the run of play against a Union team that threw numbers behind the ball and tried to create off of counterattacks.
“It was too slow, 100 percent,” said midfielder Tim Cahill of the Red Bulls’ ball movement. “We had a chat afterwards, but in a game, someone has got to do something to change it, because if that one bit of brilliance changes the game then that obviously makes everything OK.
“That wasn’t there today. You can see, we must’ve put in 30 crosses, but we have to look at ourselves with the quality of the ball and the timing of making runs and things like that. It’s not a bad thing, at least we’re creating chances, but it’s hard to comprehend because we definitely were the better team.”
With the transfer window closed, the Red Bulls will need to find a solution from within. Whether that comes from alterations to the usual starting lineup (something which Petke hinted at in his postgame press conference) or an adjustment in tactics remains to be seen.
What is clear, though, is that something needs to change if the Red Bulls are to avoid being held goal-less as frequently as they have been in recent weeks.
“We just weren’t decisive in the final third tonight,” said midfielder Dax McCarty. “That’s the bottom line. We had a few half chances, had most of the ball, most of the possession throughout the midfield, but at the end of the day we weren’t dynamic enough going forward, we didn’t have enough movement, we didn’t create enough chances, little stagnant with our ball movement, it was a little slow.
“Give Philly some credit, they’re a pretty organized team. Their gameplan was to sit back and hit us on the counter, so they let us have the ball and we were fine with it in the defensive third and the middle third and when we got to the attacking third, it just broke down and we couldn’t really create much.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.