Patryk Klimala reacts to a missed goal opportunity in the first half of the match against the FC Cincinnati at Red Bull Arena on August 4, 2021 (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)
Patryk Klimala reacts to a missed goal opportunity in the first half of the match against the FC Cincinnati at Red Bull Arena on August 4, 2021 (Photo by Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images)

Patryk Klimala has not been the fire starter many had hoped for since he joined the New York Red Bulls. To start 2022, the Polish youth international has only scored one goal in nine appearances (six starts) with the team across all competitions. It’s been a struggle watching him play up-top either alone, leading a diamond formation, or as part of a duo with Tom Barlow.

After being signed to a four year deal as a Designated Player ahead of last season, there was mixed reaction. Many fans were excited about New York actually using a DP spot for a striker after multiple years of mainly focusing on forwards. However, others questioned using said spot on someone like Klimala who hasn’t really shown himself as a consistent scoring threat.

Recently an article popped up from Once A Metro defending Klimala. To summarize it (though I suggest everyone reads it), the main point is that in the current system Klimala is doing his job. That as a striker, he pulls opposing players wide and sets up teammates to run in and finish off scoring opportunities. All the while, Klimala takes himself out of position to score regularly.

The article’s sub-headline states that “the team would almost certainly be worse off without the Polish striker”. It’s all up for debate but looking at Klimala’s total RBNY resume raises some questions.

The whole picture includes his first season with the team in 2021. Think back to that season and that roster where Gerhard Struber was first coming under control. Klimala led the team in goals but only with eight across 31 games. That unit was a spread out scoring machine with the top three scorers all being within one goal of the next in-line. Fábio, the Brazilian loan striker, was the second most proficient goal scorer and led the team in assists. However as the season progressed a visible shift occurred where Klimala was left out on the field for longer and got more starts.

To many, it became clearer who Struber was focusing on. That painted a picture of which players he was going to keep moving forward. While Klimala was always coming back, the shift in favored forward made Fábio’s return to Brazilian easy to see coming.

So right away in his first season, Klimala was set-up in a two-man partner system. He scored, but not a lot. Midfield players like Cristian Cásseres Jr. and Omir Fernandez picked up the pace and scored enough on their own.

Now look at 2022 and what has occurred over the last two months. Fábio is gone meaning Klimala has lost his second, consistent man up-top that was great on assists. Not only has he suffered but the team has as well. Ignoring the fact that Lewis Morgan leads the team with five goals (since three of them came against Toronto FC), overall the whole squad isn’t scoring a lot. A five game stretch where the team scores one or fewer goals per match is proof enough of that. But it also points to another reality; Klimala isn’t as proficient at setting up his teammates.

Looking at the scoreless draw against FC Dallas paints a solid picture of this. Whenever Morgan was crossing into the box, it rarely felt like Klimala ready to take a solid strike on net. When the forward pressed into the box and ran to the right side, looking to cross in – many of his attempts found players like Fernandez either under pressure or in the wrong place. There were six distinct points in the first half where Klimala attempted to assisted on a shot attempt. Nearly all of those chances weren’t good looks.

The 3-man attacking system Struber is using only benefits if players like Klimala and Morgan are consistent in helping one another. Maybe it says something that Klimala leads the team in assists (3). But I don’t believe it means he’s playing his role as intended. I think that just means he’s doing what he can, to the best of his ability, and brute forcing results.

Struber has made it clear this season that he expects more from his forwards. After the Dallas draw, he also brought up that the rest of the team’s attackers bear a burden to score. Klimala needs to focus more on getting in front of net rather than setting up others for a shot. He needs to be the one under Morgan crosses from the right side eight times out of ten. Until then, it needs to be realized that New York can’t play Orlando City and San Jose every week.

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