New York Red Bulls – Atlanta United: Ten Men New York Shut Out Unimaginative Atlanta (1-0)
The game was relatively chaotic in the early stages as Atlanta struggled against New York’s pressing. A sending off for New York changed the pattern of the game as Atlanta were now presented with the challenge of breaking down the ten men of New York. They were unable to do so, and New York took their chance on the counterattack to walk out with a 1-0 win as Atlanta were unable to turn possession into goals.
Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
New York Red Bulls endured a tough start to the season with just one win in their first seven games of the season. Since then, their form has picked up slightly as they came into this game with three wins in their previous four.
Manager Chris Armas made several changes from New York’s last game against FC Dallas, including replacing his central midfield pairing as Cristian Cásseres Jr and Vincent Bezecourt were replaced by Sean Davis and Marc Rzatkowski in New York’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Similar to New York, Atlanta United also had a difficult start to the season as it took them five MLS games to secure their first win. They too have made a recovery in recent weeks though, as they came into this game on a five-game winning streak without conceding a goal.
Atlanta also started in a 4-2-3-1 formation, making four changes from their previous game against Vancouver Whitecaps. Miles Robinson came in at center-back ahead of Florentin Pogba, and Michael Parkhurst replaced Brek Shea at left back. Meanwhile Darlington Nagbe was introduced to midfield in place of Erik Remedi, and Julian Gressel played as a winger replacing Justin Meram.
Atlanta struggle against pressing
In the early stages of the game Atlanta suffered some ball losses in their own half against the high pressing of New York, who prevented Atlanta from being able to impose their possession game effectively.
New York’s pressing essentially forced Atlanta to attempt long passes from the goalkeeper and center-backs into the front four to compete for second balls or chase the ball into the channels. They struggled to build up constructively through the center against the pressing of Atlanta.
Meanwhile Atlanta’s own pressing appeared relatively weak, as New York were able to find entries between the lines a couple of times by playing through the halfspaces, If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. due to the wide midfielders and central midfielders of Atlanta failing to close the passing lane between them early enough.
New York red card
The first thirty minutes or so were also somewhat chaotic with neither team being able to consistently string sequences of passes together when they had the ball, leading to regular turnovers of possession.
However in the 35th minute New York center-back Tim Parker was sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity after defensive errors from himself and Kemar Lawrence had allowed Atlanta striker Josef Martínez to run through on goal.
The sending off meant that the game actually took a more settled rhythm as New York were no longer able to impose their pressing in Atlanta’s half as they had done previously. With ten men they now moved to a 4-4-1 formation as Sean Nealis came on as substitute in place of winger Andreas Ivan. Nealis would slot in at center-back to replace the dismissed Parker, while Alejandro Romero Gamarra filled in at right midfield in the 4-4-1, leaving Brian White as the lone striker.
The teams after New York went down to ten men.
Atlanta dominate possession but can’t score
For the rest of the game Atlanta had over seventy per cent possession as they tried to open up New York’s deep 4-4-1 defense. However, Atlanta struggled against the compactness of New York’s two lines of four, and as such found it hard to carve clear chances in the final third The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. against the high presence of New York around their own box.
Atlanta pushed both fullbacks forward when in possession, but they did not consequently hug the touchline like attacking fullbacks normally would in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Instead they sometimes came inside to occupy the halfspace positions that one might expect the nominal wingers to take up. When this did happen, the winger would be the one holding the width and looking for one-versus-one opportunities.
This left the two central midfielders along with the center-backs as the foundation for Atlanta’s buildup. One of the central midfielders would sometimes drop to the side of the center-backs to create a back three in buildup. They were relatively uncontested circulating the ball at the back though against the lone striker of New York.
New York’s 4-4-1 was fairly compact, and their strong coverage of passing lanes through the center and halfspaces meant that the first forward pass from Atlanta almost always had to go into the wide areas as they could rarely penetrate centrally.
Once they had the ball in wide areas they seemed lacking in ideas about how to solve the problem in front of them. They sometimes tried to play flat passes into the feet of the inside-forwards but they were often crowded out as it proved very difficult to find space between the lines of New York.
Otherwise, the forwards would look for straight passes down the line as they ran in behind the New York fullbacks, however once they received the ball in these positions they were well dealt with by the defenders showing them down the line and preventing them from cutting inside.
Things looked rather desperate for Atlanta after the goal of substitute Tom Barlow put New York 1-0 up. The goal was a classic counterattack as substitute Atlanta left back Brek Shea was caught upfield, allowing the cross to come in from the open space on Atlanta’s left, which was converted by Barlow.
Atlanta’s attacking did not improve after the goal. They looked to bombard the box with crosses from deep positions, many of which were extremely poor in quality. They finished the game with just one center-back after throwing on another striker in the form of Romario Williams to replace center-back Leandro González Pirez, but this did little to help. They did not have the creativity to break down the resilient defending of New York.
New York Red Bulls put themselves into sixth place with this result. Their defensive performance was impressive, considering that they were playing with ten men, and they proved able to take their chance on the counterattack when it eventually came.
The issues that Atlanta had against New York’s pressing, and their inability to create against the ten men low block A low block refers to a team that retreats deep in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents around their own box. of New York does not reflect well on them. In fact, it could be argued that they were better off when New York had eleven men as they at least were able to look to exploit the space behind New York’s defense as they looked to press, whereas against the low block after the red card Atlanta appeared to have few ideas about how to break down New York’s resolute defense.
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