The first game for Bradley Carnell’s Red Bulls did not go as planned as New York fell to the Philadelphia Union, 3-0, at home on Sunday night.
The team remains under .500 and in the lower half of the Eastern Conference with possibly a dozen games left (the team’s next set of games hasn’t been announced as of this writing).
While the result wasn’t what either fans or the team wanted, it’s a start towards hopefully getting a better squad by next season. One that can challenge for a playoff spot or, at the very least, score more than one goal (if any) per game.
The rest of the MLS regular season will show where the future of RBNY is heading through performances, tactics, roster management, and more.
Here are three key takeaways for the Red Bulls going forward.
The Best Foot Forward
The team needs to address one of its biggest concerns: scoring. After setting records for individual goal scorers last season, New York has only scored seven times through ten games (three came in the home opener pre-COVID). Only Kyle Duncan has scored more than one goal.
The three active forwards Red Bull has right now are not cutting it. Brian White and Tom Barlow have both played in over half the team’s games and have not found the back of the net once. In the Union game, Barlow had two opportunities at net and both were off target after he and his team battled to open up space. White hasn’t played with chemistry in much of his six appearances and that’s probably why he hasn’t seen a full 90 minutes yet with the team in 2020. Mathias Jørgensen has also struggled to get meaningful shots this season in his four caps.
Samuel Tetteh, the team’s loan acquisition from Red Bull Salzburg, has not played a game yet though he could become one of the team’s best options going forward once he’s ready. The young Ghanaian National Team player has scored nearly 30 goals in the Austrian professional leagues with both FC Liefering and Linzer ASK (LASK) since 2016, averaging one goal per three games.
Prior to the season starting, I vocalized my worries regarding the team’s offense known on the Feuerstein’s Fire Radio Show. Back then, I said that a team where an aging Daniel Royer was the lead scorer wouldn’t be able to go far in the league. I was only half right in the assessment since he’s only scored once and that was back on March 1 against Cincinnati.
Playing For Their Spots
Ahead of Sunday’s game, reports came out that Carnell would not tell any player if they were in the starting lineup until everyone was in the locker room.
Game night. Bradley Carnell not telling the players who’s starting until they get to the locker room. “I want every player going to bed last night preparing themselves to be in the starting eleven” pic.twitter.com/CvXYDd9z79
— Shep Messing (@ShepMessing1) September 6, 2020
He was quoted as saying:
“I want every player going to bed last night preparing themselves to be in the starting eleven.” This should be a mentality going forward.
Every player needs to realize that no matter if it’s Carnell’s system or the next full-time manager down the line, each one of them isn’t guaranteed a spot. The struggles of this season have shown the roster needs to be shaken up in multiple areas and who is on it in 2021 may very well depend on the next few games. New additions could be brought in and put into a system with Red Bulls II call-ups like Omar Sowe or Ben Mines.
Going back to forwards for a moment, if Tetteh looks great and the team decides to keep him post loan one of the other three forwards will either be cut or sent back to Red Bulls II full time. The same goes for many of the other positions on the team including the goalkeeper. After Luis Robles’ departure, the starting role has fluctuated between David Jensen and Ryan Meara. Even if the results don’t improve, I don’t expect the team to shop for a new goalie for next season. So both of these players need to demonstrate their value above all else and show why they need to stay for 2021 and beyond.
Change Needs to Go Higher
Chris Armas being gone won’t solve every problem right away and the Philly result made that abundantly clear to anyone who doubted that. Not only does the roster need to be totally re-evaluated but everyone in control of team performance should be considered “in the hot seat.”
Sporting director Denis Hamlett has been with the team since 2017 and much of the moves he’s made have not led to long term success. The 2017 U.S. Open Cup Final appearance and 2018 Supporter’s Shield both included players and tactics from previous administrations (AKA prior sporting director Ali Curtis and manager Jesse Marsch). While some acquisitions under him such as Amro Tarek and Marc Rzatkowski have proven themselves, the unit as a whole has been on a decline.
Head of Sport Kevin Thelwell only took on his role back in February and even without COVID it isn’t right to judge his work fully. Some fans have also begun to vocalize more doubts in Red Bull as a whole, and certain calls for the organization to separate from the New York MLS team have begun to surface. That is a whole different topic with long-reaching ramifications that goes beyond this article’s scope – but the disparity between RBNY and the other Red Bull-owned teams isn’t hard to see.
The Red Bulls close out the first phase of its regular season restart on Saturday in a road match against D.C. United.
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