This will be the second meeting of the season between the two Eastern Conference foes. The first happened on the opening day, as the Red Bulls came to MAPFRE Stadium and left with a 1-1 draw. A lot has happened since then, with New York maintaining its place in the playoff pack in the East while the Crew fell into a hole in the early summer and look to climb back out of it.
To learn a little bit more about the Red Bulls, we turned to our SB Nation friends at Once a Metro. Here is what we learned.
Questions for Once a Metro
Massive Report: It’s been since Week 1 since these two teams last saw each other. For Crew fans who haven’t followed the Red Bulls closely, take us through how the season has gone for the team.
Once a Metro: Although we got a somewhat positive result in Columbus with a rotated team, the beginning of the season was awful for RBNY. Compared to the previous season, the team looked completely different. We saw Chris Armas tweak his tactics from the last year which was considered to be pure “Energy Drink Soccer”. Now we see a team that tries to round their game a little more. Although we do see flashes of “EDS”, we see a more possession based approach at times, as well as a deep sitting approach. Armas felt as though teams would figure out our formula from last year and counter it. With a lot of experimenting and testing of different approaches, we saw this extremely slow start. Many games which we expected to win would end up in dropped points. This string of disappointing results took a turn around May and the start of the summer. The team has still shown glimpses of last year and are starting to execute the tactical tweaks of Armas. As a whole, I see the rocky start as a time where the team just had to adjust to a slightly different style of play. Even with these tactical changes, the team has prided itself on what they do best. The principles of being aggressive and showing no fear is what will get this team results, and lately we’ve been seeing a lot of that.
MR: We’ve been so used to seeing Bradley Wright-Phillips near the top of the scoring charts for New York, but he has only two goals this season. What’s changed for the forward and where did Brian White come from?
OaM: The biggest surprise of this season for me is the depth we have at the striker position. In the absence of BWP, we’ve seen the emergence of Brian White and Tom Barlow. Following the insertion of White to the starting lineup, the team looked like it had a new spark. White could execute all of his roles to a T. He has the ability to hold up the ball, make fantastic runs, finish off plays, and work hard for the team. Players like White are the epitome of what RBNY pride themselves on in terms of player development and “the next man up” system. White, who came up through the academy before getting picked by RBNY in the draft, slid right into the team with no problem at all. From the academy, to the USL team, to the first team, players all come up through the same style and system. It’s evident through young players such as Tyler Adams, Aaron Long, Derrick Etienne, Brian White, and many more.
While some may think BWP’s lethal goal scoring days are over, I think it’s far too soon to judge. Since he came back from his injury, we haven’t seen him get large chunks of minutes. In the few minutes he’s got, he’s still made an impact. Against Chicago, BWP got game time for his first time in months and was able to mark his return with a great assist. Following that, he was able to bag a goal against Atlanta United at the death of the game. If he can keep his momentum, I believe he still has the chance to return to his usual form. Although he may be losing his physical qualities, he still has the IQ, positioning, and finishing of a class striker.
MR: The Red Bulls sit firmly within the playoff picture and seem a lock to make the postseason. But obviously fans want more than that. Is this a team that can make a strong run and potentially win MLS Cup?
OaM: This is a great question. This is one of the weirdest, most inconsistent season I’ve seen from this team in a long time. It looks like we can secure a playoff spot without too much trouble from the point we are currently at. The goal of this team is not just to qualify for the playoffs, but win the MLS Cup. The team and the fans have been yearning for an MLS Cup but it seems as though the team falls just short every year. This year’s team has won in big moments, but fallen in smaller ones. I honestly have no idea what may happen in the postseason. The team definitely has the ability to win MLS Cup if they’re completely locked in, but only time will tell if they can actually do it. If RBNY win MLS Cup in a wacky season like this, it would only be the most fitting way for us to win it.