SNY.tv's Red Bulls writers Aaron Bauer and Brendan Joseph take a step back to debate what is going wrong with the Red Bulls season so far...
Aaron Bauer: The Red bulls are not playing well. They are 1-5-0 this season, and have been shut out in the five losses they have. Nothing seems to be working for the team, although there are some signs for encouragement. No team, no matter how good, can perform consistently for 34 games in an unpredictable league like MLS, and we can't keep getting shut out forever.
One area that is much different from last year is the Red Bulls aren't scoring early. Last year they disrupted opponent's right out of the opening kickoff using the press, scored early, then forced team's to attack at them, so the press could get deadlier. Now, teams are willing to cede possession to us and counter to score against us with relative ease. Injuries to our defensive line have disrupted our team and allowed opponents to score early against us, compounding our situation. What, do you think Brendan?
Brendan Joseph: I think things will get better when Gideon Baah returns to the starting lineup and again when Damien Perrinelle returns in the summer. If those two were starting in the back (or if Matt Miazga was still here), we'd be seeing scoreless ties instead of losses. The failure to score is a problem, but right now the center backs (who are left on an island in a gegenpress) are struggling to close down the outside of the field. Karl Ouimette has performed well, but the revolving door of back line partners hasn't helped.
To continue focusing on the defense, in my opinion Felipe is pushing too far up the field. When there are two strong center backs capable of shutting down 99% of opportunities by themselves, he can push up as far as he wants. But with the defense currently in crisis, he needs to stay home more and help out.
Aaron: I think that is a good point, especially about the revolving door going on in defense. Hopefully when the injuries heal we will have some stability in the backline. I don't know if the midfielders are pushing too high up the midfield is a bad thing, or if they are not creating enough space for our two primary attackers, Mike Grella and Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Many fans were keen to criticism BWP after failing to capitalize on any of his many chances against Kansas City. I think it is fair to point out how it is unfair that all those chances led to no goals, but that assessment is very hash. BWP had a great game, but in this modified system the Red Bulls are trying to play in, he needs help. Grella isn't going to create enough space for BWP, and he looks very lost when teams give him space to have the ball. A personnel chance is definitely needed there, and Sacha Kljestan and Felipe clearly need to change the way they play, but how?
Brendan: We're not seeing as much Lloyd Sam this season for whatever reason. He completely disappears during matches and the team is clearly missing his creativity. I don't want to pile on Felipe and Kljestan but both of them are being asked to defend, shuttle the ball through the midfield, and create in the attacking third. Maybe Sam is uncomfortable playing in the center as opposed to being isolated on the wing and having his way with the motley assortment of subpar MLS left backs, but something's not right this year. Last season he had 10 goals and 7 assists. Through six matches this season, he has zero goals, zero assists, and 20 minutes into every match I have to check to make sure if he's in the lineup.
Is it a question of roles? Does the team default to the wrong players becoming the focal point of the offense when BWP isn't finishing his opportunities?
Aaron: That's a real possibility. Or they could just really believe that the goals may come soon, and they may. Luck does play a real part in everything. San Jose's first goal on Wednesday night was a deflection that came after a great clearing attempt by Tyler Adams just fell to the right person for the Earthquakes. I think talking about this; we clearly see there are a lot of little problems that on their own shouldn't derail this team, but combined leads to this 1-5-0 start. It could be a really bad band, who just plays out of rhythm and makes bad music, or it could be when two instruments are slightly out of tune and the dissonance is at its highest.
I think both the coaches and players need to identify areas where things are weak and adjust accordingly to fix each problem separately over the course of the season. If Sam and Grella aren't working behind BWP and Kljestan, maybe change how the offense flows, or adjust a player from a deep bench to make it work. The same can be said for the center of the midfield and the back line. I think Marsch tried to do too much at once by throwing a new lineup out against San Jose, whereas the forced sub of Davis for Felipe against Kansas City, while keeping the rest of the lineup intact, did more to help the team push forward. This team strived on continuity last year, small, spread out changes to that continuity may get them back on track this year.