HANOVER, N.J. – When New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch talks to his team about their pressing and counter-pressing style, he underscores the fact that he wants them to be an aggressive and physical side. But he doesn’t want them to foul – in fact, he hates when they foul the opposition.
Fouling, Marsch tells MLSSoccer.com, is counter-intuitive to their counter-press. When the Red Bulls lose the ball, they immediately turn to counter-pressing as a way to disrupt the opposition’s build-up and perhaps force a bad giveaway or a turnover. By committing a foul, Marsch says it lets the opposition “break our pressure” and takes them out of a chaotic situation where they might lose the ball.
It was this mentality that led Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney to call the Red Bulls “disruptive” last week, this ahead of his team’s meeting in the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs on Monday night at Red Bull Arena (7 pm ET | FS1; TSN4, TVAS). In his comments, Vanney also told the Toronto Sun’s Kurt Larson that the Red Bulls look to toe the line when it comes to gamesmanship and physicality, in particular “what the referees will call and won’t call.”
“Are we physical? Yeah, it’s a physical game. I certainly hope it’s physical. I don’t want our players to shy away from being physical,” Marsch told MLSSoccer.com
“But I don’t think we’re very dirty. We have one red card all year so I think our guys play the game pretty fairly and pretty honestly. And sometimes that’s my criticism of us is that we’re too honest. But it’s a physical game and we’re not going to shy away from it.”
The Red Bulls were the second most whistled team in the league this year with 475 fouls committed. On the flip side, they were also the most fouled team in the league with 503 fouls suffered.
Perhaps no player on the Red Bulls better encapsulates this duality of the Red Bulls mentality than Felipe. The Brazilian central midfielder is both gritty in his defending but has also shown a great willingness to shuttle the ball up the field this year.
While he has been called on 58 fouls this year, Felipe is also among the league leaders in fouls suffered. He said that the team’s philosophy is to make their opponent “uncomfortable” and limit time on the ball as well as space.
Felipe said “I respect” Vanney’s comments but that he and his teammates on New York are striving to make things difficult on Toronto on Monday night. It isn’t about overt physicality or toeing a line.
Simply, he said, it is taking it to their opponent and being aggressive.
“It’s just a perspective, a view. Depends on how you look at it. People don’t talk about how aggressive our team is, how tactically our team is organized. When we win the ball, how fast we go to goal. One of the things used against is fouled,” Felipe told MLSSoccer.com.
“I saw those comments, I think it is a perspective – a view. But we know what we are about. We know the way we want to play. It will be a good game.”