Bronx, NY – Not even the most sanguine of New York Red Bulls supporters could have predicted the utter humiliation their team inflicted upon derby rivals, New York City FC.
In fact, if this really is the rivalry that Major League Soccer wants to sell us, then it appears that it may only be so off the field, as the seven goal thumping at Yankee Stadium – the largest road win in league history – reminded us that rivalries grow from parity and not proximity.
Unfortunately, we may have to wait a while for that parity, since Saturday’s game and score line were indications that both teams are in very different places.
Despite a difficult start to the season, Jesse Marsch and his Red Bulls have stuck to their guns and are continuing a project that saw them claim the Supporters Shield, while Patrick Vieira is still tinkering with his team in order to establish identity.
Ultimately, that proved to be the difference.
With his playing philosophy firmly imprinted in the players’ minds, Marsch was able to prepare for the game by tweaking specific aspects of his strategy. Aware that Vieira has emphasized building attacks from the back, Marsch had the Red Bulls press high up the field. Though, that in itself is not unusual. Since arriving in Harrison, pressing opponents has been one of Marsch’s hallmarks. Nevertheless, given the smaller field dimensions at Yankee Stadium, the Red Bulls were able to press higher more consistently and with catastrophic consequences for the home team.
In the post game press conference Marsch was coy about revealing the specific adjustments he made for the game, but did acknowledge that the field dimensions played an integral part, and that they had been mapped out during the week’s practices.
For his part, Vieira was never able to counter Marsch’s strategy. Even when it was painfully evident that New York City could not build out of the back successfully, there seemed to be no attempt to change the approach. Though, to be fair, the Frenchman’s options were limited. Steven Mendoza was the only forward on the bench, and the Colombian would hardly have been more successful at battling the likes of Aurelien Collin and Chris Duvall for long balls than the frustrated David Villa.
Conceding seven goals in one game will certainly be an anomaly for New York City, but the fact that the Red Bulls so easily neutralized Vieira’s strategy this deep into the season suggests that perhaps it’s time to come up with an alternate plan. That being said, it has become apparent that any improvement cannot preclude some roster changes.
Hits, Misses and Maybes
New York City FC Hits
Jack Harrison – It’s hard to find the silver lining after a conceding seven goals at home, but there just may be one for NYCFC. New York City’s number one draft pick finally made his professional debut and made a very good impression. Harrison actively looked for the ball, took on defenders whenever he had it at his feet, and exhibited some flashy moves. Expect the young Englishman to slowly assert himself on this team.
Red Bulls Hits
Strategy – Jesse Marsch is known for his attention to detail, and Saturday’s performance shows that he did his homework. Three of the Red Bulls’ goals were borne from turnovers in their attacking third, while the remaining four came from set-pieces. At the expense of the fluid soccer that he’s accustomed us to, Marsch capitalized on NYCFC’s weaknesses by being pragmatic.
New York City Miss
Set-pieces – There’s a lot about NYCFC’s display that we can pick on, but nothing was more disastrous than the team’s set-piece defending. Dax McCarty has an excellent track-record scoring from dead-balls, but as the second shortest player at Yankee Stadium, he shouldn’t be tallying two goals with his forehead. Still, it was the seventh and last goal of the game that exposed New York City’s set-piece ineptitude, with Gideon Baah scoring only after the ball had made its way past three defenders.
New York City Maybe
Khiry Shelton and Steven Mendoza – There is no arguing that Khiry Shelton has tremendous potential. His speed alone is enough to unnerve defenders. However, the young winger hasn’t done enough to prove he merits a place in the starting eleven. Shelton was poor on the ball and his movement without it was suspect, at best. In contrast, Mendoza had an immediate impact. His first involvement earned Connor Lade a yellow card, and the Colombian always appeared confident and decisive on the ball. Maybe he’s earned his way into the lineup.
What the coaches said
Patrick Vieira: “Today was about the emotional side of the game that we didn’t control. In a derby, when you don’t match your rival in intensity, it’s unacceptable.”
“After the game, I can tell you we are not the worst team. I know the aspects we need to improve.”
Jesse Marsch: “The fans will be able to tell their kids that they were at this game. They’ve earned this opportunity to celebrate.”
“We wanted to go and make sure this was a performance we could hang our hat on.”
Eric Krakauer covers the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC for Bigsoccerhead. Follow Eric on Twitter @bigsoccerheadny
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