Formation? Mentality? Identity? Red Bulls mull changes after big loss

HOUSTON – The consensus from the New York Red Bulls after Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo was that individual battles weren’t won.

Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch acknowledged that his team’s defensive matchups left something to be desired, particularly his back four.

“Our game plan was to try and control the game, but also to manage their dangerous attacking players, and when it comes down to it we didn’t do well enough with some of our defensive matchups,” Marsch said.

“Against a team that can be explosive in the counterattack, it was costly because we couldn’t take care of business on the defensive end.”

It’s the second time in five games that the Red Bulls have given up three or more goals in a match.

Red Bulls midfielder Felipe says the onus is on the players to play better defensively.

“Collectively, we need to defend as a group. It’s not one, two or three; it’s everyone running back and trying to protect our goal as much as we can,” he said. “It’s a change in their mentality in each player. To know that we can get beat. That the guy next to me can beat me. We need to win our battles.”

It was those individual battles that led to the Red Bull defense being dismantled in Houston. That said, Marsch believes three of the goals shouldn’t have even been allowed.

“If you really want to look at it. I don’t think it’s a penalty. It’s offside on the third goal – he [Andrew Wenger] is in the way. And the fourth goal is not a foul,” Marsch said. “That’s something different. I don’t think the referee was any good tonight, but what’s more important is for us to focus on ways we can get better.”

Marsch said his team is still discovering its identity this season.

“This team is still figuring itself out a little bit. So there’s work to be done. Everything from trying to figure out who are most reliable guys are, who we can count on, what the combinations are,” he noted. “We’ve played a lot with two strikers, and we don’t seem to be rewarding ourselves and getting ourselves enough leads with that.”

Marsch added that his team has been flat and stagnant and could revert back to the 4-2-3-1 lineup that work so well for them last year. For his part however, Felipe doesn’t think it’s just a change in formation.

“It’s tough. You can sit here and talk about formation and everything, but it comes down to our performance,” Felipe said. “I think individually and collectively we can do better.”