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My Two Cents

My Two Cents

September 3, 2013
MY TWO CENTS
The Red Bullsí Analyst on mimicry



Chris Brandon Whitaker writes The Red Bullsí Analyst column monthly, providing ďAnalysis for a Team & Therapy for Fans.Ē

By Chris Brandon Whitaker
Special to BigAppleSoccer.com

For this monthís session, the Red Bullsí Analyst will process the teamís problem with mimicking their opponentsí level of play.

Presenting concern

The Red Bulls disappoint when they play teams who are lower in the standings. For some reason, they do not dominate games and seem to play at (or below) the level of their opponents. While they can rise to the occasion against the best in the league, they can also drop to new lows against teams they should beat easily.

Client history

This season has been pockmarked with ugly results against teams many believed they should have no trouble defeating. The ties against D.C. United, New England, and Toronto left observers shaking heads in frustration at the wastefully dropped points against cellar-dwellers. The losses to San Jose, Chicago, Vancouver, Columbus, and most recently to lowly Chivas USA, on the other hand, have been frankly humiliating.

Mental health issue: social mimicry

Have you noticed how people tend to imitate each other when they interact? Social mimicry is the subconscious mirroring of another personís non-verbal behavior, such as, gestures, vocal pitch and tone, posture and body orientation, eye contact, and even personal space. Everyone does it to an extent as a way to build rapport in a social setting.

Pathology: Corporalalia

Corporalalia is the compulsive copying of other peopleís physical actions, such as facial expressions, scratching, coughing, stretching, etc. This kind of mimicry usually creates an alienating self-consciousness in those being imitated. Unfortunately, the Red Bullís seem to have developed a bad case of corporalalia when playing other teams. Their ability to tackle, pass, and score uncannily parallels which ever opponent they are pitted against. It can be as incisive and devastating as Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC, or as clumsy and futile as Toronto or Chivas USA. As with corporalalia, this annoying monkey-see monkey-do habit may alienate their fan-base.

Treatment: team identity

One reason the Red Bulls mimic their opponentsí level of play is because they lack a style of play or team identity. They need to dictate their own game, rather than ape their opponents. Here are the obstacles theyíve had to achieving a stronger identity:

* Inexperience: Head coach Mike Petke doesnít purposefully change tactics for each opponent, but he has failed to instill a clear team identity. This is no doubt the result of being a rookie coach who is learning on the job and still developing his own style.

* Arrogance: The problem with the Red Bullsí large payroll is that it invites a roster of international players who seem to think they are better than the rest, despite an only slightly better than average record of 11-9-6. They simply arenít as good as they think they are.

* Chemistry: It bears repeating until the front office gets it straight. This team lacks a clear style of play, because the huge turnover in the roster every year prevents the players from gelling. Given time together, they will create their own natural style.

Prognosis: MLS Cup or exodus?

If the Red Bulls are able to consistently mimic other teamsí level of play, then they will rise with the cream of the crop throughout the playoffs. Unfortunately, their oft-mentioned inconsistency forecasts a different likely outcome. Until they build a stable roster with a strong identity, this team will continue to frustrate fans. With two new soccer teams arriving in the metropolitan area, the club must realize that this lack of style or success will drive its fans into the stands of other clubs with stronger identities.

(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.)
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
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