If the team’s road form remains perfect in 2022, the New York Red Bulls are still looking for their first win in Harrison after a crushing 2-1 loss to CF Montreal. After a night of reflection, OaM tell you two or three things we learned from the latest frustrating home result…
This team needs Frankie Amaya
Much of the pre-game fanfare revolved around Frankie Amaya’s absence through suspension after being sent off with a second yellow card in New England – and it turns out the concern was justified. As we wrote a few weeks ago, Amaya was the driving force behind the Red Bulls’ resurgence in 2022 and the loss of his skills hurt the team in the loss to Montreal.
Gerhard Struber said after the match that his midfielders were often content with shooting from deep or “playing back” rather than “driving” with the ball. Such a diagnosis illustrates an Amaya-shaped hole in the team’s line-up on Saturday, with his ability to carry the ball out of transitions and navigate a jam-packed final third.
His understudy Cristian Cásseres actually had a decent game as part of his own player identity. The Venezuelan’s robust tackling and passing range are better suited to a deeper midfield position than the attacking roles in which he has been used extensively since joining MLS. But his poor interpretation of forward runs and inability to carry the ball with fluidity took away the dynamic that improved New York’s offense in 2022. Amaya’s return to the lineup next week against Dallas is almost certain, and Struber hopes his offensive boost is just as good.
Maybe Lewis Morgan is better as a winger
Another topic midweek had been the ultimate positional fate of Lewis Morgan. The speedy Scotsman was expected to slot into New York’s attacking midfield after an anemic 2021, but he’s been used more often in a winger role as Gerhard Struber preferred a 3/5 defensive line over a more conventional line at 4. most games.
While Morgan himself said this week it’s ‘no secret’ he prefers to play more directly in the attacking thirdhe also said that Gerhard Struber gives clear reasons for deploying him deeper, and after a game in Montreal in which Morgan struggled in a more attacking role, those reasons could be visible.
Morgan’s game is athletic and technical, but somewhat direct and devoid of trickery. Especially against a team like Montreal playing more compact on the road and not providing the transition moments the Red Bulls thrive on, Morgan’s dribbles often end in dead ends or end in telegraphed crosses into the traffic. The wing-back setup gives Morgan more distance to generate a head of steam with his run, providing danger in the final third that other team wide defenders John Tolkin, Tom Edwards and Dylan Nealis had to hard to generate.
Perhaps the 4-2-3-1 formation used by Struber was particularly neutralizing Morgan’s talents. The Toronto game in which Morgan scored a hat-trick while playing on the left wing featured two forwards providing reference points and creating space in front of Morgan for the former Celtic man to collide to score looks. Perhaps if such a roster returns when Ashley Fletcher is fit enough to be paired with Patryk Klimala, Morgan might get another chance to prove herself in her favorite role.
The team is not in crisis
Saturday’s result looks like a bottom for this team as it currently stands – which is probably a good thing.
While the Red Bulls would certainly prefer to have a home win now, the team’s situation is more of a paradox than a purgatory at the moment. At the end of Saturday’s action, the Red Bulls still sat 3rd in the Eastern Conference with the second-highest goal differential in the division. The team still have a strong defensive structure whose worst performance of the year came on Saturday in the form of a rusty set-piece and a goalkeeping error.
The team is also not yet fully settled and gelled. As Gerhard Struber said after the game, the team are still working on restrictive fitness plans for newcomers Luquinhas and Ashley Fletcher, and the Brazilian in particular was set to be called up for 90 minutes. complete soon. With Caden Clark and Wiki Carmona set to return from injury and Frankie Amaya back from suspension, Struber will have more cards to play in games like Saturday’s in the weeks and months to come.
Thorough verification of a result is much better in third place in April rather than outside of the playoff picture in the fall as seen in 2021. The platform is here for a few small improvements to have a big impact on results for the Red Bulls which couldn’t be said in other recent seasons.