Prior to the season starting, I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss the Red Bulls on Feuerstein’s Fire Radio Show. I made my own thought clear that the Red Bulls have a solid defensive front.
With talents like Aaron Long (who is currently out injured) and Amro Tarek, along with newer talent like Patrick Seagrist, I felt as though the team had enough pieces to make a compelling case for underrated line.
After two games that isn’t the case. In both outings, New York’s defense has consistently struggled in the final 45 minutes.
In Week 1’s 3-2 win over FC Cincinnati, all five of the opponents’ shots-on-goal, including the two scores, came in the second half. In the first half, the visitors barely reached goalkeeper David Jensen’s end while the Bulls controlled possession. In fact, the defense’s biggest effort in that half was Kyle Duncan scoring and assisting on his team’s first two goals of the year while he played up.
After the break, the back-line almost came out playing asleep as a long pass found Brandon Vázquez running up the left side before an uncovered Allan Cruz ran up the middle to put the eventual cross into the net. Then in the final ten minutes, a poor deflection gave Jürgen Locadia a chance to beat Jensen one-on-one to pull the game back within reach for his team.
While RBNY walked away with that win, 3-2, it still left with an uneasy feeling.
Last year the Red Bulls played as a second-half team with many-a a slow start eventually leading to at least a point by the end of regulation. From what was seen on the field, the team had put its best foot forward while dragging it’s another leg a bit in some areas.
Week 2 against Real Salt Lake confirmed this. The team’s offense struggled to get anything going after taking an early 1-0 lead thanks to Cristian Cásseres Jr. After that, the defense felt like it was playing with borrowed money as two shots nearly crossed the line for early equalizers and as a whole, the squad was out-shot 21-4. Under normal circumstances saying New York scored 25% of their shots while Real only scored 4.8% might be promising but seeing it play out was like watching a team desperately earn a win they didn’t deserve.
The recent addition of Jason Pendant from Ligue 2 (France) side FC Sochaux-Montbéliard might be the sort of addition that gets the team moving in the right direction. Despite his most recent full season nearly seeing the team relegated to Ligue 3, the 23-year-old Pendant will be joining a young team that he can both develop while also possibly taking on a bigger role. He helped the team earn 22 clean-sheets over his four seasons and served as captain multiple times during the 2019-20 season. He, along with a returning Long, could be great sparks on the back-line which has seen moments of lapse.
To switch to the other end of the field, the offense that led the league last year in unique goalscorers might have to rely on every play once again. The team’s four goals have all been scored by different players and none of them are forwards or tactical strikers. Tom Barlow, Brian White, and Mathias Jørgensen have done nothing in terms of scoring in the two games so far. The biggest offensive player has been the returning Florian Valot who assisted on two of the team’s goals in Week 1.
Fans should not expect these forwards to suddenly start leading the team in goals. No player currently on the team looks as though they are ready to take the leading scorer mantle apart from the aging Daniel Royer.
Frankly, if the leading scorer is a 29-year-old who averaged 10+ goals a season twice in his career that’s a problem.
After two games the teams is second to last in expected goals this season differential (sitting at -3.5). A New York Post article explained that “expected goals is a statistic that measures the likelihood of a goal on a given chance, considering factors such as the chance’s location on the field and what part of the body is being used to score.”
Essentially, the team has allowed more scoring chances than they have created on offense and if the trend continues, despite earning points so far, it would eventually tip the scale into multiple losses.
With the team’s next game being against 2019 U.S. Open Cup finalist Minnesota United on March 15, a team that has run the gambit to become of the league’s most dangerous sides and a dark horse cup contender, the Bulls will once again be relying on every player to contribute.
Defenses will need to play up and assist on goals while forwards need to help keep balls away from the opposition so a defense still feeling itself out won’t break after being bent so many times.
Featured Image: ---