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Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis

March 12, 2016
Five things to take from Red Bulls' latest loss

Lloyd Sam (above) and Mike Grella would be prime candidates to be bench by Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch if he decide to go with a double striker next week.
Lloyd Sam (above) and Mike Grella would be prime candidates to be bench by Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch if he decide to go with a double striker next week.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

If flipping the side of the field in which midfield wings Mike Grella and Sam Lloyd is one of the major options that Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch that had in mind to be less predictable this season, the team could be in for a long season.

Enough sarcasm. I know Marsch is a much smarter man and coach than that.

It is not the time for Marsch to push the panic button, but to push forward and try Plan A or B or C or whatever looks good to get the team out of its attacking funk.

Has the league figured the Red Bulls out?

The proof could be in the pudding, or in this case, on the pitch. The Red Bulls' pressure game surprised many foes in 2015 and they rode it all the way to the Supporters Shield. The Columbus Crew essentially shut them down in the Eastern Conference final, eliminating New York from the MLS playoffs. Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact did admirable job of shutting down the Red Bulls' vaunted attack within a week.

The Red Bulls did not offer many creative solutions in their 3-0 loss in Montreal Saturday. They haven't scored a goal yet and they boast Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has tallied more goals (44) than any other MLS player the last two seasons.

Don't know if anybody noticed, but Marsch replaced his three attacking midfielders over the last hour of the match -- Anatole Abang for Sam (61st minute), Shaun Wright-Phillips for Grella (68th) and Sean Davis for Sacha Kljestan (80th minute).

Now, that's certainly a rare occurrence.

The Red Bulls cannot afford a third successive defeat, especially at home to the rebuilding Houston Dynamo.

These wings don't give the Red Bulls wings

One of the bright spots of the team last season was the dynamic duo of Sam and Grella, who generally patrolled the right and left flanks of midfield. They did not make much of an impact, ahem, in Montreal.

I know Marsch has talked about a rotation, most likely for later in the season, but benching one of his wing midfielders might be the best tonic given their lack of offensive punch, whether it be passing or shooting.

You can't win if you don't score

The Red Bulls led the league with 62 goals last season. They haven't found the back of the net yet in 2016. There has been little creativity by the team to give Bradley Wright-Phillips dangerous, let alone decent scoring opportunities, particularly in the opening half.

Yes, BWP finally had a couple of chances in the second half, including the point-blank attempt that goalkeeper Evan Bush saved and Ignacio Piatti turned into a spirit-crushing counterattack goal and a 2-0 lead.

But by then it was too little, too late.

You don't have to be a genius to know that the team that scores the first goal many times goes on to win and is allowed to set the tone of the match.

The Red Bulls cannot afford to keep allowing their opponents to score first. It isn't fun or easy chasing the game, especially when it happens week after week.

You can't expect defense to save you all the time

When you don't have an attack to write home about, it puts much more pressure on the defense. I don't care if you have the best goalkeeper in the league in Luis Robles. He can't save every shot. It puts too much pressure on the back four and the team defense to stay perfect if the Red Bulls can't put it away.

Changes are needed

Not necessarily major ones, but the team must give its foes another look.

With the team playing at home next Saturday, a slightly altered Starting XI could be deployed. Assuming Designated Player Gonzalo Veron could go at least an hour after recovering from his hamstring injury, a strike force of the Argentine and BWP certainly would not be out of the question. Look how well they teamed during the preseason. It couldn't hurt.

That also would force Marsch to shake up what would be now a lackluster four-man midfield, at least for a game. He would have to bench either the underachieving Grella or Sam. Hmmm. How about giving Davis a start? Everyone seems to be bemoaning the fact he can't break into the talented midfield. Perhaps this is his time.
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