Red Bulls' Armas rues "combative" derby defeat in head coaching debut

NEW YORK – In his first game in charge of the New York Red Bulls, it all felt very familiar for Chris Armas, who trotted out a typical starting XI and the usual high-press tactics for his team.

But it was an unfamiliar scoreline for the Red Bulls, as they suffered a 1-0 away defeat to New York City FC, their first loss in three editions of the NY Derby this year.

Just two days after Armas assumed RBNY’s head coaching job following the departure of Jesse Marsch to pursue a reported opportunity in Europe, the Red Bulls came out flat and listless against their crosstown rivals. NYCFC pushed the visitors hard in the first half, clogging up the midfield and taking the visitors out of sync.

Armas called it a “combative game,” one where the Red Bulls only truly looked dangerous once in each half, both times via good chances from “Kaku” Gamarra.

“It’s obviously disappointing to not come away with points here,” said Armas postgame. “It was close in the end, close to getting a draw, and maybe even with the push we made in the second half, maybe three [points]. But to leave here after a big match, a derby match, is disappointing.

“I was very comfortable today,” he added. “I think the comfort comes from the group of guys that I’m coaching. Not just that I know them, but there is respect there and I’ve known these guys … I think that knowing that we’re a good team gives a coach comfort. When you step on the field you think you can beat anyone on any given day. In the role of head coach, yes, it’s a bit different, but I’ve been in this building before, I’ve been on that sideline before. I’ve made the decisions before.”

His team, however, didn’t look as comfortable as they did in these sides’ other meetings this year, both 4-0 wins for the Red Bulls (one in the regular season and one in the U.S. Open Cup).

NYCFC head coach Domè Torrent chose a direct game plan for his first rivalry game in charge, with long balls bypassing multiple lines of their opponents’ vaunted press, frustrating the Red Bulls. Conversely, every time RBNY got possession, two or three blue shirts would surround and confound any type of build-up in the middle of the field.

RBNY midfielder Tyler Adams noted that NYCFC utilized goalscorer Maxi Moralez as a “false No. 9” on the day and that Jesus Medina tucked in to congest the middle of the field. He likened their formation almost to a 5-3-2 alignment.

“It was definitely a physical one in there, a lot of tackles being thrown around,” Adams said. “And on the day, you give them credit. They did what they wanted to do. They got after us, they pressed us. Their game plan worked on the day.”

The Red Bulls’ slow start and inability to finish finally cost them in the 85th minute, when a miscue between their midfield and back line allowed substitute Jonathan Lewis to pick up the ball and dish to Moralez, who coolly finished to lift NYCFC to their first derby win of 2018.

Captain Luis Robles said that Marsch’s departure didn’t cause RBNY's lackluster performance, in particular at the start of the match.

“I don’t think so,” Robles said. “I think the group has done a good job of compartmentalizing everything that is going on, everything that has gone on, and yet we told ourselves throughout the week these derby matches are competing, whose will is greater to wanting to get the three points.

“When you look at that first half, it was a very forgettable first 45 minutes. In the second half, we started to look more like ourselves and yet towards the end, we just couldn’t find a good quality chance. And then we let ourselves down, unfortunately.”