Eye on the MLS: New York vs Philadelphia (10/16/10)

April 24 2010: Red Bulls' captain Juan Pablo Angel (9) and Union's Roger Torres (20) go after a loose ball in the second half during MLS action between the New York Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. The New York Red Bulls defeated the Philadelphia Union 2-1.A Philadelphia Union with nothing to lose and a home crowd behind them (the “Sons of Ben” just might be the best “12th Man” in the league) came out with a generous display of positive fútbol. While it’s true New York may be taking their foot off the gas slightly to not risk any injuries ahead of the playoffs, they had the opportunity to clinch first place in the East and certainly would have liked the 3 points which the Union denied them.

Other playoff-bound teams should watch this game as a study in how to neutralize New York and render them ineffective. Last night’s New York 4-3-1-1 (edit: whoops: 4-4-1-1) formation was short Henry, who was out with an injury, but overall it should resemble their operating mode in the post-season. LA, Salt Lake, Dallas, Seattle, etc…are you reading? These will be your key game points to defeating the Red Bulls and taking a chomp out of the Big Apple (although you may want to spit it out–no telling where it’s been):

  • Neutralize wingers Lindpere and Richards: These two wild cards can ravage your defense if you don’t keep them busy with what should be a midfielder/winger’s first responsibility–defending their wing. Richards will burn you on pure speed and tenacity. Lindpere is a truly unpredictable Tasmanian Devil who doesn’t hesitate to tear across the pitch (he once appeared last night AHEAD of Richards in the upper right corner). If you use your own wingers by pushing the ball up behind these two, one of two things will happen: you’ll force them to hold back and chase/defend, or you’ll be able to use all that space they’ve left you on their runs up field. The Union thwarted Lindpere so well, in fact, that in the second half he was moved to central midfield.
  • Blitz Marquez: New York has employed ex-Barcelona man Marquez as a defensive midfielder who sits back like a quarterback reading the field and sending dangerously accurate long balls up to his strikers and wingers. Much like blitzing a quarterback forces him to make the quick decision, opponents should apply high pressure on Marquez and not give him time to scan the field for darting “receivers.” Remember, he’s still in his adjustment period in MLS and he’s used to a situation at Barcelona where most teams don’t even bother pressing their back line when they have possession.
  • Dictate a fast, high tempo game pace: Despite the speedy Richards discussed above, the brain center of New York’s eleven are the wily veterans of Angel, Marquez and Henry–none of them exactly spring chickens. They prefer to use patience, cleverness and experience to break down opponents. When the pace is quick and direct (as the Union dictated it last night), New York never has a chance to settle into the role of dictators. In particular, here’s how you might handle each of this trio:
    • Angel–If he’s playing as the point man up top, make him chase your defenders for a few minutes before you start your build up. Heck, even zing it back to your keeper now and then so he has to chase. I know this seems to contradict the “fast pace” advice, but it would good for a breather.
    • Marquez–See above. Blitz.
    • Henry–Man-mark him. Tug his jersey. Make him claustrophobic and unable to turn. Get him yelling at the ref and his teammates. This wasn’t tested last night, but I did see FC Dallas neutralize him in this way several weeks ago.

New York will no doubt ramp up their game for the playoffs, but the Philadelphia victory over them provides a nice laboratory for exposing some Red Bull vulnerabilities.

Memo to Bob Bradley.

Dear Bob,

We’re giving you the week off. We are pleased you showed the willingness to experiment and take risks vs Poland and Columbia. Draws aren’t pretty, but we think a lot of good stuff came out of last week’s friendlies.

Besides, since we know you are listening to the FFG Podcast, we are confident you’ll get our detailed analysis and feedback.

Cheers,

FFG

4 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Blake Owen says:

    Cool breakdown

    I really like the idea of pressuring Marquez. He has excellent vision but, as a converted center back, isn’t used to supplying offense when under pressure.

  2. Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

    Free-roaming wingers are dangerous, even to their own team at times.

  3. Dan says:

    The formation you have listed for RBNY is short a man. Overall the formation was something akin to a 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 depending on how much the wings were pushed up. Otherwise very good points about pinning the wingers back. Usually it is New York pinning opposing teams wide players back. All this I think originates from the heavy press on New York’s midfield and back line. They did not have very many easy passes and were forced to knock the ball upfield to often. This combined with some scrappy finishing led Philly to 3 points.

    • bensten says:

      Nice catch on my shoddy math! And you are right–there was some outright scrappyness involved in Philly’s attack, but you might also call it “hunger” with a positive spin.

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