OPINION: New York Red Bulls v.s. Chicago Fire — Key Takeaways
The New York Red Bulls were away to the Chicago Fire this weekend in a match that was perhaps seen by many as a way for the team to redeem themselves after an underwhelming result against Orlando City FC two weekends ago.
With the return of the likes of Kaku, Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence and Michael Murillo, the Red Bulls had a full strength defensive line and their star creative player back in the line-up. Despite this however, the result did not go in favor of last year’s winners of the Supporters Shield. Chicago pressed the out of form New York team and managed to pry all 3 points in their favor, courtesy of a Tim Parker own goal, making this the second 1-0 loss the Red Bulls have suffered in a row. Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from this game.
Despite reinforcements, defensive woes continue
Last week against Orlando City, it was easy to pin the blame of defensive errors on the fact that the back line was missing some of its essential pieces, namely Long and Lawrence. This week, however, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that the Red Bulls put on an even more tepid display, with the likes of Nemanja Nikolić and Przemysław Frankowski cutting through the defense with ease on a multitude of occasions. The first of these saw the two former Polish Ekstraklasa players link up beautifully, with Frankowski’s pass through the center of the box to Nikolić completely evading Lawrence and Co. which left Nikolić one-on-one with Luis Robles, but the former Legia Warszawa frontman failed to convert his golden opportunity.
Nikolić would receive opportunity after opportunity to put Chicago in front, another quality chance coming in the 37th minute after a headed ball in midfield found its way to his feet. The former Hungarian international found himself between Long and Parker, but his shot was poked just wide of the near post.
Fans would have to wait until the second half for the first and only breakthrough of the game, and curiously enough, despite the creativity shown by Chicago throughout the match, the only goal of the game result in scrappy play within New York’s penalty box. A ball sent in by Chicago’s Marcelo dos Santos Ferreira (Marcelo) found its way to Nikolić, whose effort bounced off of the post. The rebounding ball would then hit an onrushing Parker, who admittedly would have found it very difficult to clear. The deflection off of Parker sent the ball over the line and Chicago took the lead.
While many will look at the own goal by Parker as one of the key moments in the game, it’s important to note here that this was only one of many instances where the Red Bulls defense failed to do their job. As mentioned earlier, both Frankowski and Nikolić had a plethora of opportunities on goal in this match, and all of it resulted from fairly simple play. Nikolić, for example, was able to send it low, driving balls to his teammates on a number of occasion in the exact same fashion, which was a very troubling thing to watch. To have the defense cut open on multiple occasions by the same move should be something head coach Chris Armas will surely be furious about and looking to remedy for the next game.
Having seen the lackluster performances of certain players in the defensive line, it makes me wonder whether or not it might not be a good idea to have Amro Tarek start at the back for the next game alongside Long. Tarek had a solid performance against Orlando City despite the loss, so it may be in Chris Armas’ interest to give the player another run out while in form.
Muyl and Robles continue to perform, Schweinsteiger a center back?:
Despite the lackluster team performance, both Alex Muyl and Luis Robles continued to be bright spots for the Red Bulls as the New York side struggles to find its form. Muyl put in another workhorse-like performance that delineates his value to the team. Muyl showed his skills with a very intelligent dummy for Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 37th minute and provided a few good crosses that could have been more effective had the team been more on point in the match. Muyl also linked well with Daniel Royer and Murillo on a couple occasions, which is worth noting. Robles on the other hand made sure that his leaky defense didn’t concede more than one goal in the match, stopping shots from Nikolić, Frankowski and a Bastian Schweinsteiger rocket in the 50th minute.
Perhaps the most interesting facet of this game for me, however, was watching Schweinsteiger play as a center back. The former Bayern Munich man and German international has always been well-known for his midfield prowess, spending most of his career as a dominant force at the center of the park for Bayern, but to see him play at the back so well showed once again how much class the man possesses, and despite my Schwarzgelben loyalties, it would be wrong to not credit the “Basti” for a very good performance.
The New York Red Bulls will face Minnesota United at home this coming weekend. The fairly young MLS franchise has had a similarly rocky start to their season, having lost their last two games to the LA Galaxy and New England Revolution despite picking up six points in the first two match days. With the home advantage to their benefit, the Red Bulls should get back to winning ways in this game, and fans will surely be hoping to see improvements to the recent defensive frailties that are perhaps becoming a bit of a trend.
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