The New York Red Bulls played swarming team defense on Friday and contained the Galaxy
Getty Images

Notebook: Arena says hands tied on subs

CARSON, Calif. – Los Angeles Galaxy fans may have been clamoring for the introduction of striker Tristan Bowen in place of the ineffective Jovan Kirovski, but LA manager Bruce Arena says his hands were tied.

Bowen made an immediate impact on the match as soon as he came on in the 76th minute, including featuring on some of his team's best scoring opportunities.

But Arena explained that Bowen was not brought in earlier because Dema Kovalenko was injured and David Beckham potentially needed to be switched out given the limited minutes he played in his only two appearances of the season.

“You couldn’t play your cards that early,” Arena said. “You have to use a center back and holding midfielder for your substitutions in a game like that, it’s tough. That hurt us. … Maybe in a perfect situation we would have given Bowen more minutes.”

INJURY UPDATE: Both teams were hit by injuries on Friday. RBNY right back Carey Talley came out before halftime with a hamstring strain which the Red Bulls say will need a 10-day recovery. New York midfielder Tony Tchani experienced a left hamstring strain but should be available for next Saturday's tilt against Kansas City. In the Galaxy camp, midfielder Dema Kovalenko suffered an adductor strain.

CENTER BACK CONTROVERSY: In the postgame press conference, Arena indicated that central defender Leonardo was subbed off at halftime due to injury. Less than an hour later, the club stated that the change was tactical, with A.J. DeLaGarza replacing the 22-year-old center back.

Arena was seen exchanging some strong words with Leonardo in the tunnel at the break, just minutes after the Brazilian made a wild tackle which came up empty and led to the visitors’ opening goal.

BUILD-UP FROM THE BACK: Dutch great Johann Cruyff once commented that championship teams typically have defenders who are playmakers. The Red Bulls fit that bill. New York’s back line on Friday was a key component of its dominant possession game, especially with midfielder Rafa Márquez often drifting back there.

“LA had a huge problem to defend against Márquez and Carlos Mendes and Tim Ream when we built up from the back with only three players and pushed the two fullbacks,” said Red Bulls manager Hans Backe.

Left back Roy Miller and Talley on the opposite side essentially became added midfielders in the scenario described by Backe, compounding the superiority of the Red Bulls midfielder on the night.

MÁRQUEZ MANAGEMENT: Backe indicated that the decision was made at halftime to play Márquez only 69 minutes, citing the fact that the Mexican national-team captain was experiencing fatigue and that it was not worth risking injury.

Márquez may not have made the key pass to decide the match, but he was influential in the way he dictated the pace of the game and proved a calming force for New York.

“He could in a way just tell the other players, ‘Don’t force it, don’t get dragged into LA’s pace,’” Backe said. “[The Galaxy] have a lot of pace, they’re physically strong. If we get dragged into that type of game, we’d have lost this game. He calmed them down, get your possession and have a nice, easy passing game. Don’t force it.”

M.O.M. MEHDI: Backe had high praise for another one of his midfielders, Mehdi Ballouchy, calling him the Man of the Match and even going as far to say that he is surprised that the Moroccan native is “that good.” Ballouchy clearly had the ability to roam freely, find the ball and keep it moving for New York.  

QUESTION OF PERSPECTIVE: Ream highlighted the impressive team defense his club showed on Friday night, saying that the Red Bulls “had a swarm around the ball all night long,” with at least two players collapsing on the LA player with possession.

The Galaxy’s Kovalenko was more self-critical when speaking of his squad’s sputtering attack.

“They put pressure on us and we didn’t move well enough off the ball to give options to players,” Kovalenko said. “We did win the ball and try to play and after two passes it breaks up and they were coming back at us.”

RED BULL FANS IN LA: They may have traveled from the opposite coast, but the Red Bulls still had a vociferous following of more than 800 fans at the Home Depot Center. The contingent was dressed in red and mobilized by the Red Bull office based in Los Angeles. They earned the salute of New York goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul toward the end of the match.

ROOKIE PRAISE: In a Red Bulls midfield in which Márquez typically gets all the accolades, Tchani was praised by Arena, who called the rookie a “key player” for New York on Friday night.

During a press conference in which Arena spent more time speaking about individual Red Bulls players than his own squad, he also reserved commentary for Ream, RBNY’s central defender.

“I thought the kid Ream just cut off every cross we sent in,” Arena said. “He seemed to be in the right spot all night dealing with the crosses that we tried to play in front of the goal.”

LINDPERE TAKES THE CAKE: The Red Bulls’ Estonian midfielder takes the honor for quote of the evening, indicating that the victory in LA was critical in order for his team “to show that we are not an easy cake.” Guesses are that they probably wanted to prove they were not an easy cakewalk.


Stay connected: Get access to breaking news, videos, and analysis from North America's best soccer reporters via "This Week in MLS" newsletter or using our FREE mobile app.