Each week we do a Q&A with our friends around the SB Nation Soccer world to get some insight on their team from those who know them best. Know your enemy!
Hudson River Derby: Round Two. New York City FC welcomes the New York Red Bulls this Sunday for another battle for metropolitan supremacy. NYC exorcised their demons in a big way in round one — remember, the US Open Cup does not count — beating Red Bulls in Harrison 2-0.
Bad news, dear reader: the Jersey Boys are on a tear these days, winning five straight, vaulting their way into 4th place in the East.
And not only are they in-form, but they’ll be looking for revenge.
Jonathan Tzvi Machlin from Once a Metro has graced us with his presence this week to answer our Red Bulls questions. We discuss RBNY’s hot streak since the NYC FC win, new formations in Harrison, and transfer moves.
Q. Red Bulls are so hot right now. They've reeled off five straight wins since the Boys in Blue got a 2-0 win in Harrison in late June. Which players have been key in turning things around and pushing RBNY into Playoff contention?
A. Sacha Kljestan has been our Hansel with a Pornstache ever since the spanking you gave us at Red Bull Arena. He has been a man on a mission, looking exactly like the player who made the All-Star & Best XI lineups last year. He has scored two goals and added five assists while displaying skill with the ball that allowed the Red Bulls to literally run circles around teams like Minnesota and Montreal.
But I think that Gonzalo Veron has become the biggest X-Factor for the team. He contributed game-winning goals or assists in three of our last four road games and has displayed unparalleled speed with the ball in his possession. Late in games that speed of his wears down defenders and makes them vulnerable. Of the 16 goals the Red Bulls scored in July, 8 of them came after Veron was brought on as a late sub.
Q. From players to tactics - It appears the new 3-6-1 formation being employed is paying major dividends for Red Bulls over this win streak. What are your thoughts on the formation? How is it best employed and why does it work so well for RBNY? Where are the weaknesses in the formation and how should another team attack it? Asking for a friend.
A. Tell your friend that calling it a 3-6-1 formation would be oversimplifying it a little.
Jesse Marsch has found a way to deploy his players in positions that are more suited for their skillsets:
- Alex Muyl and Tyler Adams have been moved from attacking/defensive midfield to wingback, putting them in a better position to defend the counterattack.
- Sean Davis and Daniel Royer have been moved to more central attacking midfield roles, allowing them to touch the ball more often.
- Felipe has been moved into central midfield on his lonesome instead of sharing the defensive midfield with someone else, letting him take full advantage of his attacking abilities while retaining his value to the defense.
When you get down to it, it's really a 3-2-1-3-1 formation instead, and allows for all of attacking benefits of the high press, while somewhat reducing the risk on the counterattack by having the workhorse players move farther back and reclaim possession.
As for the weaknesses, consult the film from our MLS match against the Revs for the answer: The long-distance cross. The outside defenders still don't have the speed or wherewithal to properly mark defenders who move out wide to receive a long cross. That Revs game was the only one in our five-game winning streak where the Red Bulls gave up goals before the 86th minute, let alone one where they truly had to fight for victory.
I believe a strategy that involves accurate, long-distance passing as well as possession would unbalance the Red Bulls sufficiently.
Q. Red Bulls have been active in this transfer period bringing in Muhamed Keita and Fidel Escobar. What should we know about these players and what impact, if any, will they have as Red Bulls chase a Playoff spot?
A. Both players address positions of serious need for the Red Bulls: winger and center-back respectively. With their additions, the team has some much-needed depth for the final stretch.
But this late in the season it's a bit hard to say how long it will take for either one to make an impact.
Keita particularly found minutes especially hard to come by in the last few years on different loan spells across Europe, but he has experience in the high-press to learn the ropes more quickly than most.
Escobar, on the other hand, is coming off a very strong performance in the Gold Cup for Panama and already has chemistry with RBNY defender Michael Murillo - so Escobar should be able to find himself playing a big role by September.
Q. Predicted XI?
GK Luis Robles
WB Alex Muyl - Tyler Adams
AM Sean Davis - Sacha Kljestan - Daniel Royer
PROBABLE - AM Sean Davis, DF Damien Perrinelle
Thanks to Jonathan for answering HRB's questions this week! Join us in the comments section to discuss the Sunday's match and give your own prediction, and be sure to check out the "reverse fixture" on onceametro.com, where we answer three NYC FC questions.