Preview: New York Red Bulls (a).
Where? Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of the United States. Also in Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV for residents of the greater Orlando area, as well as on 104.1 FM Real Radio, Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM. The game is being broadcast in Sky Sports Football, for us UK folk.
Somewhat ironic that Orlando City are set to head to the Garden State, donning the colours of New York City FC. Almost like there will be two fake New York squads in Harrison on Saturday. Naughty, I know. In all seriousness, though this will be a tough game for Orlando City. Although, the Red Bulls haven't been in great form, they still have quality players. Players like Caden Clark and Daniel Royer, can hurt anyone on their day. That being said, this is still a game that I expect Orlando City to take all 3 points from. We're one of the best defensive teams in the league and much like ourselves, the Red Bulls haven't been prolific in attack. And with the likes of Mauricio Pereira and Silvester Van Der Water set to play at Red Bull Arena, I think the Lions will score.
All that being said, this game is set to be a fascinating match-up. Former Barnsley head coach, Gerhard Struber is beginning to instil his philosophy with the Red Bulls, who will see this game as a huge test for them. So, without further ado, let's get straight into it.
Red Bull's style
I think it's fair to say, that the Red Bulls are in something of a transitional phase right now. They have a relatively young roster, with an average age of 23.7. With a fairly new coach in charge, it's going to take time for things to come good. Gerhard Struber only joined the club in October 2020, and has yet to really get to grips with his squad. He's had precious little time with this team. So to judge them too harshly, at this stage of the season, would be foolhardy at best. It would be akin to saying the Last Jedi is a good movie, when you walked out 20.minutes in. It definitely got worse!
From the relatively small sample size we have, of this squad, there are tentative signs of their identity coming to the fore. They are a team that likes to play on the front foot, who like to get the ball wide and send crosses into the box (figures 1 & 2). Which isn't a bad thing, not by any stretch of the imagination. And they don't just lump it in aimlessly, the likes of Thomas Edwards are effective at delivering quality balls into the area. Which makes them a dangerous side, particularly when you consider the movement and aerial ability of the likes of Daniel Royer.
You'll notice, from the cross positioning matrix in figure 3, that they whip the ball in from a variety of positions. They are just as comfortable crossing from deep, as they are from the byline. The danger here is not just from the aerial threat (Daniel Royer led the team with 9 aerial duel wins against New England); but their runners from the midfield too. The threat is very much two-fold, as their highlights clip from their loss to Philadelphia illustrates (see below). They do turn the ball over a fair amount though, with 71% pass completion rate on the season so far. That's where Orlando could have some joy. With the likes of Sebas Mendez and Junior Urso pressing in midfield, they could have some chances to put the home side under pressure.
This game won't be the cake walk some are expecting it to be. That much is obvious. But it's definitely one we can win.
Figure 1 shows overall passing statistics from their game against Philadelphia Union.
Figure 2 shows overall passing statistics from their game against New England Revolution.
Figure 3 shows their crossing position matrix from the game against New England Revolution.
The Red Bulls suffered a massive injury blow this week, as news broke that Aaron Long ruptured his Achilles tendon. The injury is expected to keep the USMNT defender out for the remainder of the season. The Red Bulls are also missing Florian Valot, Jason Pendant, Youba Diarra and Amro Tarek. Andrés Reyes will also miss out, through suspension, following his red card last weekend.
Orlando, on the other hand, have some concerns of their own. Alexandre Pato and Uri Rosell, continue to be out. João Moutinho is listed as questionable, as are David Lowe's and Wilfredo Rivera. Ruan, also remains a doubt.
Possible starting XI
I can see a few changes being made to the Red Bull's starting XI. First of all Reyes' red card against the Revs, rules him out. Young defender John Tolkin came on against the Revs. So I can see him being handed the start. The home side are a bit stretched in terms of their defensive options right now. The only other thing they could do, is possibly tuck Kyle Duncan inside, and use Andrew Gutman at left-back.
The Red Bulls employ a diamond in the midfield, with two up top. Although, Daniel Royer almost operates as a second striker, at times. Brazilian striker Fábio Roberto Gomes Netto is struggling so far. With 0 goals and 0 assists, the former Ouste striker has been subbed off in every game so far. I wouldn't be surprised to see Ben White get a run-out, in his place.
The talented youngster continues to bely his youth, with some incredibly mature performances. He's established himself as a key component of this Red Bulls offence. Clark has 3 goals on the season so far, from 7 total attempts. That makes for 42.9% conversion rate, which is nothing to be sniffed at. He now has 5 goals, in 13 career appearances. Again. Impressive. Especially when you consider he's only 17-years-old. His movement and technical ability make him a threatening proposition in the final third. He does have a tendency to turn the ball over in vital areas, however. With only a 68.9% pass success rate in his own half, Orlando could have some joy with the press. That being said, this is a guy full of confidence right now, and with USMNT honours in his future. Orlando's midfield would do well to keep tabs on him, in this game.
Contrasting form for both of these sides. The Red Bulls are currently 2-0-4 on the season, having lost their last two, against Philadelphia Union and the New England Revolution. The Red Bulls opened their 2021 campaign with successive defeats to Sporting Kansas City and the LA Galaxy. They then followed that up with consecutive wins against Chicago and Toronto. Gerhard Steiner's side have yet to hit any sort of form, and subsequently languish down in 19th, in the Easter Conference standings.
Orlando City, meanwhile, are in fine fettle. Their 3-3-0 start makes them one of three remaining unbeaten sides, and has them placed 4th in the MLS Power Rankings. Orlando currently sit 2nd in the East, following that memorable win over Toronto. With 4 clean sheets in their opening 6 games, Orlando will be full of confidence heading into this game.