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After a first leg shock, New York Red Bulls pulled off an impressive comeback to beat Columbus Crew 3-0 and advance to the MLS Cup Eastern Conference final. As Supporters Shield record-breakers, New York Red Bulls were many people’s favourites to lift the MLS Cup.
But how did they back up that talk against the Crew? That’s what I aim to tell you in my tactical analysis of the game.
New York Red Bulls have set up in a 4-2-3-1 75% of the time this MLS season (stat from Wyscout). That was no different against Columbus Crew and neither was the personnel from the first leg.
However, the main tactical talking points come from the players rather than the setup. Here’s our first for today:
Bradley Wright-Phillips: More Than Just A Goal-Scorer
Having recently past the 100-goal mark in MLS, many would expect Bradley Wright-Philips to be a pure goal-scorer. Although getting goals is a major part of his game, other aspects shone brightly on Monday.
What this was, in particular, was his selfless positional play as seen below:
This shows how valuable BWP can be even if he isn’t on the scoreboard. With such a reputation as a goal-scorer, when he doesn’t immediately look to do that, this could confuse defenders. This then gives his teammates a great platform to exploit a defence that is second-guessing themselves.
Another way in which the Red Bulls got the Crew to second-guess themselves was when off the ball.
Nowadays, many teams in the top leagues like to pride themselves on pressing high. New York Red Bulls are a team that can do this without question. Their pressing game grew in reputation as the season grew and proved impressive in the second leg against Columbus.
Tyler Adams, one of the best players of the night, epitomises this in the sequence below:
Although chasing lost causes could seem irrelevant, the results of this could go a long way.
For one, it puts his team on the front foot following that. Whenever they decide to press again during the game, the team in possession would be that bit more under pressure than usual, which could have an effect throughout the game.
Not only that, however, stopping attacks before they start is always a positive.
Creators Of Their Own Downfall?
Despite such a positive performance overall, there were areas New York Red Bulls faltered. The main area this was prominent was when Columbus became compact. During these stages of the game, the Red Bulls found it hard to sustain attacks and here’s an example:
Luckily, the onslaught is stopped before the Crew reach the exposed Red Bulls defence. But this wasn’t always the case.
Coming up against Atlanta United, this could be a real problem. Misplaced passes cropped up time and again on Monday and Columbus were able to build very similar counter attacks.
With players like Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez at the Five Stripes’ disposal, the same mistakes could be costly.
Reflecting on New York Red Bulls’ performance in the second leg vs Columbus Crew there are definitely positive signs. When talking about a table-topping side, there are guaranteed to be.
However, what we saw from Red Bulls and their key players was a variation that could make them a very dangerous proposition. As we all know, BWP is a massive goal threat, but seeing what else he can bring to the table brings a dimension to the Red Bulls attack that’ll keep Atlanta guessing.
With that, we can also see the value of Tyler Adams both on and off the ball. He could prove to be vital into helping them to the MLS Cup final but as we all know, anything can happen in knock-out football. But either way, we’re poised for a great matchup between the East’s best.