April 19, 2016
Moving forward with the Red Bulls, NYC FC, Cosmos
By Michael Lewis
Bradley Wright-Phillips has struggled to find the back of the net for the Red Bulls this season.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
It hasn't occurred many times when the three metro area men's pro teams go down to defeat within a three-hour span.
It happened Saturday night:
* New York City fell at the Columbus Crew, 3-2
* The Cosmos gave one away to Indy Eleven, 2-1
* And the Red Bulls couldn't solve the Colorado Rapids or the snow, losing 2-1
Here's a quick look at the three sides:
They are off to a nightmare 1-6 start, having been blanked in five of the losses and scoring but five times in all games. Scoreless Bradley Wright-Phillips is in a major funk and no one else has been contributing as well. The defense has allowed a league-high 15 goals as well.
You have to seriously wonder if staying put in the off-season has hurt the club while other teams improved themselves with several new acquisitions. The Red Bulls did add one starter -- center back Gideon Baah -- who went down with hamstring injuries in the lone win, a 4-3 triumph over the Houston Dynamo last month.
And the Red Bulls have been plagued by hamstring injuries at center back, forcing head coach Jesse Marsch to deploy outside backs in that role. That certainly did not help matters that Designated Player Gonzalo Veron also has endured hammy miseries.
Plus, it has become more apparent that many teams have figured out the Red Bulls' high pressure game. Perhaps a Plan B or even a Plan C should be instituted once in a while.
So, even though most of us called the two road matches last week as must-win games, Sunday's home encounter against Orlando City FC is a must, must, must win game. The Red Bulls need three points or face another week mired in the Eastern Conference basement (the Red Bulls have three points, the least amount of the 20 MLS clubs).
It will be up to Marsch to tinker to find the right combination or face the consequences and find himself on the hot seat.
Thanks to a very weak Eastern Conference, a few wins will get them out of the cellar and back into contention quite fast. Only the first-place Montreal Impact (4-2-0, 12 points) and third-place Orlando (2-1-3, 9) have winning records (above .500) of the 10 teams.
Right now, one victory would do nicely, thank you.
New York City FC
Patrick Vieira's introduction to MLS has been a rather rude one. The season started out optimistically with an offensive-minded lineup in an encouraging 4-3 season-opening win at the Chicago Fire. Then came an abysmal four-game home stand in which the team failed to win a game and accrued three points out of a possible 12 (0-1-3) and then came the 3-2 defeat the Columbus Crew.
City is 1-2-3 with six points, good for sixth place in the conference.
Vieira has used ultra-attacking formations that has included four midfielders and three forwards and only three defenders. Since the season opener, City hasn't exactly burned up the scoring charts with only five goals in as many matches. David Villa has four of those goals and the while the Spanish international is a special player, he can't be expected to be a one-man show.
Vieira's system is that if you overwhelm the defense, your attacking players will get good shots and score. While Patrick Tommy McNamara (two goals), Khiry Shleton (one), Patrick Mullins (none), Tony Taylor (one) and Steven Mendoza (none) have found the back of the net before, the big question is whether they do it on a consistent basis to make the system work.
Any new system takes time before the players take advantage of it, but time isn't always on a team's side when it loses points, especially at home.
Of course, there is a flaw to utilizing an attacking formation-- leaving too much space for the other opposing side to counterattack. City's defense still is shaky enough to leave enough doubt whether it can do this consistently.
Another flaw in the system if the opposing side scores first. It isn't easy or fun chasing games.
Will Vieira continue with this system or will he decide on another one?
Then there's the sad and sorry case of Frank Lampard, who still hasn't played a minute this season as the former England international has been sidelined with a calf strain. But that's another column for another time.
Right now, City's decision to jettison Jason Kreis after only one season at the helm doesn't look so good. We'll see if that changes over the next few weeks.
NYC FC travels to the Philadelphia Union Saturday afternoon.
Last week I had planned to write about the talented-laden Cosmos having a great opportunity of running the 10-game spring table in the North American Soccer League, but I never had the time to pen that piece. That possibility went to the wayside with a 2-1 defeat at Indy Eleven (so you can't blame me for jinxing them, at least not in a column).
Giving up the equalizer in the 90th minute and the game-winner in stoppage time turned an apparent victory into a devastating loss for the defending Soccer Bowl champions.
Despite the late-match meltdown, I still think the match could be an aberration for the Cosmos.
One thing is certain: Indy has become their bogey team, the one side they can't beat. Every team has at least one.
In fact, the Cosmos have never defeated Indy in seven tries. Before Saturday's loss, they had played six consecutive draws.
I still think the Cosmos have too much talent and depth to let last week's setback upset them as they set their sights on a third NASL crown in four seasons. At the moment, yours truly is not worried about them, though hey will be truly tested in the form of a road game at Minnesota United in a battle of second-place teams (they're both 2-1-0) Saturday night. The Carolina RailHawks, incidentally, lead the league with a 3-0-0 mark.
Remember, the NASL spring schedule is a 10-game season, so every point is precious. There are fewer games to make up ground. The spring champion will clinch a berth in the playoffs.