June 25, 2013
MY TWO CENTS
Red Bulls' Analyst: the looking at the team's issues with shallowness on several levels
Chris Brandon Whitaker writes The Red Bullsí Analyst monthly column, providing ďAnalysis for a team & therapy for fans.Ē
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
by Chris Brandon Whitaker
Special to BigAppleSoccer.com
For this monthís session, the Red Bullsí Analyst will process the teamís issues with shallowness on several levels.
The Red Bullsí recent elimination from the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup revealed a team sorely lacking in depth and quality. Although the lineup versus the New England Revolution featured starters mostly, it wanted for class and creativity and, without its three stars, the performance was painfully mediocre and uninspired. A foremost concern is whether the team is too shallow to win when its key players are not available.
The Red Bulls season has been highlighted by the outstanding play of three players in its defensive, midfield and attacking positions. Center back Jamison Olavť, center midfielder Tim Cahill, and forward Thierry Henry have consistently proved themselves as the best players. (Their absence from the last Open Cup game was conspicuous.) Itís no coincidence that they are also the top three scorers on the team, but more important than the goals has been their quality and character in each area of the pitch.
Mental health issue: shallowness
Shallowness is a personality trait wherein an individual or organization demonstrates superficiality in its disposition and ability. Typically a reaction to shame or denial, shallowness acts as a defensive cover to avoid the effects of exposure to defeat, shortcomings, or loss (Sound familiar?). To lessen the sting of failure, shallow people will act in a cursory manner rather than reach deep, put it on the line, and risk coming up short.
Systemic character: superficiality over substance
A sports club conceived as a promotional campaign for an energy drink will be hard pressed to deny this charge. But despite its conceptual origin, the institution remains shallow, putting the emphasis on appearances over character, accentuating style and glamour rather than quality and integrity. Hiring sporting director Andy Roxburgh and coaches Mike Petke and Robin Fraser is a late effort to change this trend, but itís just a start. Tip: give up the Euro trash flash image and deliver results in this American league.
Personnel character: lack of depth
Most rosters in MLS lack depth because of budgetary constraints, and the Red Bulls are no exception. Barely able to field 11 players of decent caliber, the team is stocked with role players who have gaps in their game. The individual players mostly lack quality on the ball and creativity in the run of play, and these shortcomings were showcased in the loss to the Revolution. The poor tackling, poorer passing, and dearth of ideas on display was sad to watch. Tip: youíre not as good as you think you are, so no more showy back heels, step overs, and dummy runs.
Treatment: deepen team character
While a few upgrades can be made during the summer transfer window, it will take years to build a deep team. In the meanwhile, itís up to head coach Petke and the aforementioned star players to improve the teamís mentality in the locker room and on the field. To have a shot at success, the leaders must instill the characteristics of consistency, chemistry, and gritty determination. Tip: show some integrity by closing down space on opponents and opening up the field of play with runs into space rather than resorting to fouls and losing the ball with flashy blind passes.
Therapeutic intervention: filling larger shoes
While it would be a dream to have a roster filled with players of the same class as Olavť, Cahill, and Henry, the reality is that there are hopefuls in place who need to step up their games and become difference makers when the best players are not there to save them.
1. Center backs Markus Holgersson and Heath Pearce simply do not have the physical attributes of Olavť, but they must try to match his athleticism and determination to win the ball.
2. Midfielders Dax McCarty and Juninho donít have Cahillís knack for late runs into the penalty area, but they share his grit for winning balls. While they donít possess his creativity, they can compensate for it somewhat if they improve on their passing accuracy.
3. Forwards Fabian Espindola and Peguy Luyindula need to forego the fancy footwork and focus on their finishing. They willl never have Henryís style, but they can chase his numbers with better-aimed shots on goal.
Prognosis: test of character
While the Red Bulls may stop the slide in their past several games by sheer determination and team unity, it is unlikely they will be able to turn this frog into a prince in one season. Fans, players, and pundits alike will face a test of character to keep believing in this club. As in years past, expect to just barely qualify for the playoffs rather than wish to be swept away by a glitzy trophy team.
(For a city with more psychotherapists than bartenders and a team with more issues than a magazine stand, the Red Bullsí Analyst offers therapeutic counsel rather than a cure.)
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