For the first time in what seems like a long while, Chivas USA finally
managed deserved to lose a game. Their nine ame undefeated streak (including seven preseason games) came to an end at the hands of a young and dynamic FC Dallas side. It was CUSA's first match away from home and the road trip continues in New York against none other than last year's Supporters Shield winners. A winless New York Red Bulls team will be looking for blood at home.
New York Red Bulls Scouting Report
They maintain great possession – NYRB has won the possesion battle in each of their three games this season and currently lead the league with a 60% possession average. Averaging just under 4 passes per possession, the Red Bulls tend to take care of the ball by preferring the shorter/safer pass. They won't make many mistakes, but when they do, it'll happen in the midfield or defensive end of the field. Just ask Vancouver and the quick-counter drubbing they gave them in game 1 .
They play with a slower, more conservative style - The preference for the shorter pass not only explains NYRB's great possession numbers but also does a great deal for their passing accuracy. The offense runs through Dax McCarty, who has led NYRB in touches through three games and he does a good job of distributing the ball to all sides of the field. Similar to how a methodical boxer approaches the first few rounds of a match, NYRB tends to do a lot of feeling out during the game, being patient in finding an opponent's tendencies and capitalizing on their weaknesses. This results in a slower pace and at times, the inability to get off very many shots.
They'll attack your weakness - While McCarty distributes the ball equally to both sides, NYRB rarely took the initiative to attack the right side of the field last week against Chicago. Instead, they completely focused their efforts on attacking to the left, the same side Chicago was starting Matt Watson, a midfielder, as a left back. With Eriq Zavaleta or Andrew Jean-Baptiste potentially starting for the injured Bobby Burling, and with an Oswaldo Minda replacement manning the field in front of them, I could see NYRB attacking on their left side once again.
Talent – How could I go over NYRB's strengths and not include Thierry Henry, Jamison Olave, Tim Cahill, and Armando? This team's loaded with players who can take over a game in an instant.
Petke's Identity Issue – Based on all the talent on the roster, NYRB coach Mike Petke has the difficult task of deciding how to properly put it all together. So far he's been changing his lineups often and while some of it has to do with injuries and suspensions, it appears he's still experimenting. As a result, NYRB appears to be in some sort of early season identity crisis. Will Henry continue playing so far away from goal as essentially an attacking mid? Peguy Luyindula has been spectacular in his limited playing time, will a start be in the works? Will Petke continue going with the great play of Ibrahim Sekagya at CB or will he plug Armando back into that role after serving his 1 game suspension? Needless to say, there's a ton of question marks. Having a surplus of talent is a great thing to have, but misusing it can result in a big ol' identity crisis and the slow development of chemistry.
A Strong, yet Reckless Backline – Unlike last week, CUSA's attack wont be facing a DM destroyer like Hendry Thomas. On the other hand, they'll be facing a CB pairing that, on paper, is one of the best in the league. It's no question that Jamison Olave has earned a reputation as one of the best defenders in the game. The addition of Spaniard Armando, a physical in-your-face CB who's great at anticipating interceptions and making clearances, only makes that CB position that much more talented. That being said, the backline can be a bit reckless. The team has allowed a penalty in each of their first two games. Olave has Rasheed Wallace syndrome and can get himself into unnecessary trouble both with players and with refs. Armando isn't shy to make a reckless challenge and will be coming back to the lineup after serving the suspension given to him after laying a hard foul on DeShorn Brown. Left back Richard Eckersley has been a liability. Roy Miller has his reputation following him like a dark cloud. Add all this together and its no shocker that NYRB gives up lots of fouls and depends on possession as much as their defense to keep their opposition at bay.
Not Gettting Enough Shots – After 3 games of play, NYRB averages only 9.7 shots per game. Their focus on winning the possession game makes one wonder whether their inability to score is a matter of being patient to be as efficient as possible or are they just simply ineffective? Unless you're able to create in the final third, holding on to the ball too long leads to a decrease in opportunities as the defense tends to get stronger in organization. One theory is pinning this on having their strikers too low in the attack, focusing more on creating than on finishing.
CUSA Keys to the Game
Avoid an early NYRB lead - NYRB has only led for 15 of their 270 minutes played and its no surprise that they have yet to win as a result. When holding a lead, their possession-based style can frustrate a team trying to equalize, especially at home. CUSA needs to play smart and avoid any unnecessary mistakes.
Don't waste McNamara's talent – With Minda and/or Pelletieri missing for 2 of the 3 games of the season, it's a bit unfair that Thomas McNamara's forced to take those defensive mid responsibilities, especially since CUSA has reasonable depth at the position. McNamara showed great chemistry with Leandro Barrera and so I'd start him up top and have Daniel Fragoso pair up with Pelletieri in the middle.
Contain instead of pressure - Not exactly the things you wanna hear considering the "play it safe" gameplan backfired on CUSA in Dallas, but NYRB has proven that it struggles to find "the perfect shot." CUSA have been very good at keeping opposing teams from getting shots off and if played right, could benefit from a more reserved gameplan.
The CUSA Perspective
- There's been reports that Minda will try to give it a go this Sunday, but I can't see how Cabrera could rush the guy back considering he depends on his work rate to do most of his damage. The season is still incredibly young and Minda needs to rest and allow his hamstring to fully heal. So the question is whether Cabrera goes with McNamara once again in the DM role or does he plug in a more traditional DM in Fragoso or Delgado. I'm on board for Fragoso here.
- Last week, we witnessed CUSA focus their efforts on the defensive end of the field and limited their attacks to counters. This resulted in CUSA getting completely dominated. Will we see more of the defensive gameplan we saw in the first half against FCD, or will Cabrera instruct his players to try and take matters into their own hands?
- CB incumbent Burling is likely out again for Sunday, so will we see Zavaleta once again or will AJB be fit enough to make his season debut in his homestate?
- Road Woes vs Hot at Home – CUSA hasn't won an away game in 16 tries and NYRB hasn't lost a home game in 11 games. Will these trends continue or will one of the streaks snap?
Avila, Zavaleta, Bocanegra, Lochhead
Rosales, Fragoso, Pelletieri, Barrera
What do you think? Leave a comment below!