Dax’s first trip as a visitor to Red Bull Arena came with Chicago Fire. Courtesy Major League Soccer
Nashville SC sports a couple former Red Bulls and travels to Red Bull Arena to play the home team for the first time Friday evening. I caught up with Mark Fishkin of the Seeing Red podcast for some intel on Gerhard Struber’s squad and the local feelings about NSC’s ex-Bulls.
Check out the podcast version of this chat here.
Tim Sullivan: What are the key factors that the Red Bulls bring to this contest?
Mark Fishkin: “There are really two factors that New York is looking for coming into this game. The first is they’re playing at home. The Red Bulls have the best home record in MLS since Red Bull Arena opened – better than Seattle, better than anybody. For them, every time they take the field at Red Bull Arena, they are expecting three points. The other thing is that New York plays a very distinctive style; they press to the wall, they press to the endline, they press and counterpress throughout the entire match.
“Their gameplan is get the ball into the attacking third as quickly as possible – whether a Red Bull is on the end of a pass or not, it almost doesn’t matter. Immediately, New York will send two and sometimes three players at whoever has the ball for Nashville. Get the ball in the attacking third, obviously you recover the ball that close to your opponent’s goal, you have a really good shot at generating a scoring opportunity, and then pounce on it.”
TS: What are the perceptions of Nashville or a Gary Smith-coached team in Harrison?
MF: “We know what Gary Smith can do, being in New York. We remember the 2010 MLS Cup: where former Red Bull Mac Kandji scored the MLS-winning goal in overtime while breaking his leg – one of a series of players that have won MLS Cup after leaving New York, much to our chagrin. We’re 26 seasons in, we have yet to actually lift that trophy [ed: pretty Metro, to me].
“We know that Nashville is a very defensive-minded team. We know they don’t give up goals very often. We know if they struggle anywhere, it’s on the offensive end of the field. So if Nashville’s comfortable kind of playing in a low-block, it’ll really be up to New York to be able to break it down.”
TS: Have the coaching changes continued in the same principles of the Red Bull press? Are there different tweaks in the early stages of the Gerhard Struber era?
MF: “Under Chris Armas, they – in many ways – strayed away from that kind of ‘press you into submission’ playing style. He wasn’t able to find success doing something else. Out goes Armas, in comes Gerhard Struber. He’s very well-versed in the Red Bull Way. He has talked about as he says in his lovely Austrian accent: ‘we play with an identity,’ and the identity is to return to that Red Bull Way.
“You’ve got a very, very young, energetic team that is the perfect type of team to run an opponent into the ground. When you consider the five subs that we have now, it’s youth, and youth, and youth, and Dani Royer. But mostly youth. That is the core of what New York is all about right now.”
TS: Who has Re Bull used to fill in for Aaron Long after his season-ending injury, or some of the other more-experienced players who have cycled out of the program?
MF: “The four centerbacks on the team are Long, Amro Tarek, Sean Nealis, and Andres Reyes. There’s new signing, Englishman Tom Edwards, who traditionally plays right back but can slot over and play centerback next to Sean Nealis. When New York played Orlando, they were without Nani, and New York was able to really muzzle a lot of the Orlando attack.
“If Andrew Gutman is healthy [ed: we have since learned he is not], he would slot in at left back and Kyle Duncan would slot in at right back, leaving Edwards to slot in next to Sean Nealis once again, most likely.”
TS: How are former Red Bulls Dax McCarty and Alex Muyl viewed by RBNY fans?
MF: “Dax is really an eternal Red Bull. He was, for me, the quintessential New York Red Bull under Jesse Marsch. Unfortunately he had to move in order that Tyler Adams to be promoted for the reserves. I don’t have to tell you that Dax is a consummate pro. One of the greatest interviewees we’ve ever had. He never got to properly say goodbye because he was traded in the offseason – famously days before his wedding.
“Alex is the first player from Manhattan in MLS, he was a homegrown player, scored in the Red Wedding. Alex had a love-hate relationship with the New York fans. Red Bull fans saw the hustle, they saw the fight. That was never an issue for most Red Bull fans. With Alex, it was his ability to finish and be clinical in the box, make the right pass. At a time when New York was so good – that 2018 team that set a then-MLS record 78 points in the regular season – sadly, every team has a player that the fans just get on.”
TS: How does NYRB account for the absence of Venezuelan international Cristian Casseres?
MF: “Thankfully there’s a player that has played in Casseres’s spot, and one of the reasons that New York has gone so young is the ability to go deep with their lineup. Dru Yearwood is an English Young DP who joined the club last season who has not gotten too many 90-minute apearances. He’s going to slot in either at the six or one of the shuttler-eight diamond positions for New York.
“He’s a different kind of player than Casseres. Casseres can be a hot-and-cold player for New York. He has been able to get on the end and score a couple of good goals, and he’s only 21 years old.”
TS: What makes the young attacker Caden Clark so special?
MF: “Clark is one of those goal-poachers that finds a way to put it in from difficult positions. He reminds me of Bradley Wright-Phillips in the sense that he just gets his body in the right positions. He can pull it out of the air from seemingly any height. From on the ground to seemingly above his head, he just has an uncanny natural ability to get his boot on the ball and finish.
“The thing that Caden needs to work on is, because of the 4-diamond-2 that he’s playing, there’s a lot of questions about whether he should be one of the two forwards or at the top of the diamond. He’s not a creator – he’s yet to have an assist this year – he just gets on the ball. He doesn’t seem to be a natural fit at the 10; I just don’t think that’s his game. He’s a 9, but he’s still not physically-developed al the way. He doesn’t do the hold-up play, and he has to grow.”