Harrison, NJ – New York Red Bulls went into Saturday’s match vs. Minnesota United looking for their 100th win at Red Bull Arena. Since opening its doors in 2010, Red Bulls have the best home record (99-23-21) in all of MLS, picking up 328 points over that span. Seattle Sounders are second with 93 wins and 305 points during that same period.
The Loons were winless in two previous matches versus New York, losing 3-0 each time. Both teams were coming off of back-to-back losses – something Red Bulls have not experienced since May 2017. Minnesota would also be without the services of star DP signing Darwin Quintero for this fixture. Needless to say, all arrows were pointing towards a milestone victory for RBNY. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Chris Armas’ side, losing the match 2-1 on home soil and dropped to ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
After coming out flat two weeks in a row versus Orlando City and Chicago, Armas decided to switch up their formation to a 4-4-2 diamond. Danish forward Mathias Jorgensen (19) was given his first MLS start next to Bradley Wright-Phillips with Kaku playing just behind the two forwards. Sean Davis played as a deep lying midfielder while Muyl and 18-year-old Venezuelan signing Cristian Casseres Jr. completed the diamond. The defense remained the same with Long and Parker in the middle, while Murillo and Lawrence manned the flanks.
Things looked good early on for New York, as Jorgensen almost scored 49 seconds into the game on an attempted header. With two strikers up top, Red Bulls were on the front foot for most of the first half and their high-press really gave Minnesota trouble. The Loons struggled to keep possession and play out of the back effectively turning the ball over several times. Unfortunately, the Red Bulls could not capitalize on those opportunities and would soon find themselves trailing 2-0 after 50 minutes.
2017 MLS Rookie of the Year runner-up Abu Danladi scored his first goal of the season after catching Michael Murillo ball watching. Angelo Rodriguez – who’s strength on the ball and hold-up play gave RBNY’s center-backs problems all game – did well to chest the ball down, turned and squared it to Danladi who fired a low rocket to the far post past a diving Luis Robles. Ecuadorian winger Romario Ibarra doubled the lead with a nice volley just five minutes after being subbed on at half-time.
Cristian Casseres Jr. pulled one back for Red Bulls in the 70th minute after pouncing on a loose ball in the box, making it 2-1 and giving the Red Bulls attack some life. However, it was “too little, too late” and New York would go on to lose their third match in a row, the first time since 2014.
Red Bulls dominated possession (63%) but could only manage five shots on target in 13 attempts versus a mediocre Minnesota defense. Even worse, eight of those shot attempts came from inside the box. New York has never been an offensive juggernaut, but their poor conversion rate on shot attempts in 2019 is certainly a cause for concern.
Red Bulls have scored six goals in 5 matches this season, which isn’t bad at first glance. However, four of those 6 goals came in week 3 against a poor San Jose team. New York has been shut out twice in three matches since. Even more alarming is the fact that two-time MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips has only managed to score a goal in 7 appearances across all competitions this season.
— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) April 6, 2019
BWP has been “Mr. Consistency” since joining the team in 2013, leading them to three Supporters Shield trophies in 5 years. In 2018, Wright-Phillips became the first MLS player to score 15+ goals in 5 consecutive seasons and made MLS history by becoming the fastest player to score 100 league goals in just 159 matches.
However, Wright-Phillips has failed to replicate that success early on in 2019. He’s been visibly frustrated with teammates during several matches, feeling isolated up top with limited service. His negative body language on the pitch speaks volumes and seems a bit odd coming from Wright-Phillips, who’s normally mild-mannered and a consummate professional. I mean, it’s not like he hasn’t had his fair share of chances to find the back of the net. BWP leads the team in shot attempts (23) and shots on target (11) during RBNY’s dismal start to the season. In reality, he only has himself to blame.
In my Red Bulls season preview, I mentioned that “father time” will come knocking on the 34-year-old forward’s door soon enough, so a drop in form was inevitable. I just didn’t think it would be this visible or happen this quickly. Wright-Phillips has appeared in 168 of a possible 175 league games, logging 13,988 minutes during his 5+ seasons with the club – more minutes than any other forward since 2013. The fact that he’s only missed one game due to injury over that span is absolutely incredible considering his style of play. On the other hand, Red Bulls have put a lot of mileage on his legs and I wonder if that’s contributing to this poor run of form.
If New York wants to repeat as Supporters Shield champions and make a run at MLS Cup, they’ll need Wright-Phillips to snap out of this funk and start scoring goals. Armas does not have much at his disposal in regards to depth at the forward position. Mathias Jorgensen may develop into a formidable striker one day but it was clear to most observers that he’s not ready to lead the line. Jorgensen was pretty much invisible on Saturday, only managing 15 touches on the ball in 59 minutes of play. Omir Fernandez and Andreas Ivan have impressed in limited action this season, but both are natural wingers and neither has shown the ability to play with their back to goal.
Red Bulls (1-3-1) will travel to Kansas City to face Sporting KC (2-1-2) on Sunday night @ 7 PM. Peter Vermes’ team are unbeaten at Children’s Mercy Park this season, including a 7-1 drubbing of Montreal Impact in week 5. Sporting KC will host Liga MX side Monterrey on Thursday night in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. SKC lost the first leg in Monterrey 5-0 and will have to expend tons of energy if they want to advance to the next round. New York will be fully rested and hope to take advantage of the quick turnaround.