The early goals, wild comebacks and thrilling endings of the MLS playoffs have been dearly missed.
After Saturday’s drama, you just had a feeling fireworks were in store in this one. Philadelphia Union is a team known for playing out from the back and connecting its lines. Though Philadelphia tried to play within their philosophy during the first half, mistakes in the driving rain and strong wind helped the New York Red Bulls take a 3-1 halftime lead.
A change of tactics, impactful substitutions and significantly better second half from Andre Blake led to an absolute thriller with Philadelphia clawing their way back to a 4-3 extra-time victory in the MLS 2019 playoff first round.
In this tactical analysis, I will provide an analysis of New York’s high press, the success of each team’s set pieces, Blake’s first half gaffes and Philadelphia’s change of tactics in the second half.
Jim Curtin set out his Philadelphia side in a 4-3-1-2. Alejandro Bedoya tended to play deeper in the midfield, positioning himself in the half-space. That allowed him to spring Raymon Gaddis forward down the wing. While Haris Medunjanin’s role was more of a classic holding midfielder, the tactical variation took place higher up the pitch. Jamiro Monteiro and Brenden Aaronson played off each other in the central channel with Andrew Wooten dropping into the midfield, giving Philadelphia numerical superiority high up the pitch. Sergio Santos was then tasked with more of a lone forward role, looking to run into the space Wooten vacated.
Chris Armas countered with a 4-4-1-1. The surprise inclusion was Tom Barlow, who repaid Armas’ confidence with a goal. In the midfield, Josh Sims (and Alex Muyl who came on after the Sims injury) and Daniel Royer tended to play higher in the half-spaces, limiting the passes to wide areas. Let’s jump into a proper analysis of this tactic as New York’s high press was highly influential in the first half.
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