Red Bulls, MLS, soccer
(Photo by Kaitlin Marold - JSN)

Red Bulls ride win streak into Saturday's Game at Philadelphia

The 2021 Major League Soccer (MLS) Season began on the wrong note for the New York Red Bulls, but Struber's team have rebounded by winning two of their last three matches and improved their record to 2-2-0 on the season.

The month of May has been much better than April was to the New York Red Bulls and their fanbase. In his first season with the club, Head Coach Gerhard Struber won his first match on the first day of May, as his team pushed past Chicago Fire FC 2-0 at Red Bull Arena.

In that same game, Red Bull's 17-year-old Midfielder Caden Clark scored his second goal of the 2021 MLS season. The Minnesotan was able to pick the ball out of the air with his right-foot and volley a difficult shot in past Fire keeper Bobby Shuttleworth. Brazilian loaned-striker Fabio used his height to flick a headed-ball to Clark. New York's 23-year-old target-man currently leads the league with four assists.

Behind the Scenes

I wrote this preview of the New York Red Bulls season that explained how Head of Sport Kevin Thelwell gave his rookie head coach a huge advantage by adding 13 new players to the Red Bull roster, before the season even began. During the Winter transfer window, the Red Bulls were able to sign or loan several midfielders and each came into training camp fit and ready to play.

One of the most intriguing signings Thelwell made this offseason was 18-year-old midfielder Wikelman Carmona. who scored one goal for Venezuela as an U-17 International at the 2019 South American Championships. Head coach Gerhard Struber subbed Carmona on during the Red Bulls' home opener defeat against Sporting Kansas City and while he did lose a few tackles to the more physically mature opposition, the young player looked like he belonged on the field. Youba Diarra joined from Red Bulls Salzburg this offseason. The Mali-international started at Defensive-mid in Red Bull's home opener on Apr. 18. In that first game he completed 68.3% of his passes and made three interceptions. The downside is that Diarra was subbed off after just 54 minutes in the Red Bulls' opening match and has not played since due to a Hamstring injury.

Frankie Amaya from FC Cincinnati

In addition to these two offseason acquisitions who look solid, the Red Bulls acquired a versatile young midfielder named Frankie Amaya in a trade with MLS-side, FC Cincinnati. The Red Bulls sent $1 million in General Allocation Money (GAM) and Amaya has proven he was worth the expenditure.

Amaya's first appearance in a Red Bull uniform was as a substitute on Apr. 25, 2021. Amaya was subbed into the game, but was able to leave his mark on the game. Since Apr. 25, Amaya has started as a central-midfielder in two-straight matches. He even scored a goal in Red Bull's recent win at home against Toronto FC.

When it comes to the question of is Amaya truly valuable to the team, the answer is yes, because New York have shutout both their opponents in Amaya's first two starts. Amaya made his debut for the United States U-20 National Team as a 17-year-old. That U-20 team was coached by Tab Ramos. Ramos played eight seasons in MLS with New York Metrostars from 1995-2003 and appeared in 82 matches for the U.S. Men's National Team during his career.

Formation Changes

Red Bulls Head Coach Gerhard Struber has used three different formations in just four matches this seaosn. On April 25th, he used a 5-3-2 formation, against LA Galaxy, which is considered a very defensive formation. In that game, the Red Bull backline was; Andrew Gutman at left-back, three Center-halves (Amro Tarek, Nealis and Long) and Florian Valot at right-back.

On May 1, Struber shifted gears considerably and went with a 4-1-2-1-2 formation against Chicago Fire. It worked and he was able to earn his first career MLS win as a head coach. In using this formation, Struber intended for his midfielders to form a diamond which would allow them to surround their opponent when he gained possession and force turnovers.

Chicago Fire FC owned 56% of possession compared to the Red Bulls who had 44%, but the formation paid off in the offensive categories of goals and shots. The Red Bulls took 16 shots (six on goal) compared to Chicago who took six. These stats show that even though Chicago possessed more of the ball, the Red Bulls won the game because of the tenacity of their offense, which produced a ton of shots, which kept Chicago on their heels.

Next Opponent: Philadelphia

The New York Red Bulls will play their second road match of the season on Saturday against Philadelphia Union. Currently, the Union sit in ninth-place and the Red Bull in fourth place in the Eastern Conference of MLS. Philly comes into this match after drawing with the New England Revolution, who currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference with eight points.

Red Bull Starting goalkeeper Carlos Colonel has two 'Clean Sheets' this season after he earned just one with Union, last season. The Union advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals after dispatching Atlanta United 4-1 on aggregate on May 4. During the 2020 MLS season, these two clubs played against one another two times. The Philadelphia Union did not surrender one goal to Red Bull, winning both matches by a combined 4-0 score. Union striker Kacper Pryzbylko scored two goals against Red Bull, last season.

Both times the Red Bull and Union played in 2020, the Union had a clear advantage in talent-level. Brendan Aaronson and defender Mark McKenzie played in both games for Philly. They were both developed in the Union Academy and played at the U-19 and U-23 levels for the U.S. National Team.

Aaronson is from Medford, New Jersey and earned his first cap with the USMNT against Costa Rica in Feb. 2020. The 20-year-old played 66 minutes of action and helped the Americans claim a one-nil win. In Oct. 2020, Aaronson was transferred from the Philadelphia Union to Red Bulls Salzburg in the Austrian premiership. During the 2020-21 season, Aaronson was able to record five goals and three assists in 18 matches for the Red Bulls' head coach Jesse Marsch. Red Bulls Salzburg also went on to win the league, proving that South Jersey's own, Brendan Aaronson was a helpful addition.

Aaronson no longer plays for Union anymore and will not be an opponent that Red Bull need to worry about. Nevertheless, the next installment of the New York-Philadelphia soccer rivalry is going to be an exciting one! Kick-off is slated for 7:30 PM on MSG Networks.

+ posts

Anthony graduated from Montclair State University, where he covered a variety of sports for three years. He co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on campus radio station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.