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Chalkboard: Scouting New York Red Bulls

NYRB may be struggling, but their best results have come at home.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

System of play used:

(All other graphics all linked with words and/or sentences below.)

Offensive Organization

- New York Red Bulls generally prefer to lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation under Jesse Marsch, but have tried out other systems like 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 on occasion.

- Their style of play is short passing with emphasis on keeping ball possession at their feet and controlling the flow and tempo of games with the ball.

- They like to play with the ball in the opposition half for long periods of time and are direct in the way that they pass the ball once they get into the attacking third of the pitch.

- They can create chances both through the middle with players like Dax McCarty and Sacha Kljestan who are technically strong with the ball at their feet and they are also capable of creating chances from wide areas and attempt to send crosses into the box often, particularly from the right side where they have traditional right-footed wingers like Lloyd Sam and Shaun Wright-Philipps who like to beat their man and send balls into the box regularly.

- Aside from being able to mix it up between possessive and direct soccer, they're also good at taking shots on from all kinds of ranges and distances. They're willing to shoot from outside the box as often as necessary if their preferred approach doesn't have much initial success against well-organized units.

- Their attacking midfielders, particularly Mike Grella and Kljestan, often link up and create short passing combinations with Bradley Wright-Philipps but also try to utilize the striker's pace and get him in behind defenses that leaves spaces behind as a result of deploying higher defensive lines.

- Both fullbacks, Sal Zizzo and Kemar Lawrence, are comfortable in their short passing style and often overlap to join in attacks as a part of their strategy. With Grella often cutting in from the left flank as an inverted winger, Lawrence is usually tasked with providing the width on the overlap and sending in crosses when he receives the ball in open spaces. Zizzo is stronger technically and likes to attempt to dribble past players frequently which allows him to cut in more to help the midfield with controlling the ball and leaves the right side for Sam to attack, only joining in if necessary to have an extra player to provide width on his side.

- Offensively, when they get enough numbers forward, they'll usually have the central midfield trio of McCarty, Felipe, and Kljestan joined in by Grella and Zizzo as they try to pass the ball around in hopes of creating openings either out wide where Sam and Lawrence are waiting to provide balls into the box or in front where B. Wright-Philipps is looking for small pockets of space to receive the ball in and get shots away.

Offensive Transition - after winning ball possession

-They try to initiate counter attacks by either getting the ball to Sam who will cross the ball into the box or to one of Grella or Kljestan who will look to put B. Wright-Philipps in behind opposing defenses early and in a shooting opportunity which makes him a danger and a nuisance for defenders despite his small frame (as evident against OrlandoColorado, and SKC).

- Finishing chances and escaping opposing offside traps have been a couple of weaknesses for the Red Bulls up front, but with improved communication that could lead to better timed passes and runs off the ball, their pace could be difficult to handle for any defense that isn't well organized and positioned.

- With their strong and defensively hard working central midfield trio, the Red Bulls are good at winning balls back in midfield and opening opponents up for counter attacking opportunities, which makes them a threat in a number of ways and only further increases their repertoire going forward.

Defensive Organization

- They deploy a four-man defensive line that like to push up and play a high line as a result of their possession based approach which allows them to control games but leaves them vulnerable on defending counter attacks.

- They are strong in the air with every one of their defenders with the exception of Connor Lade being at least 5'10' tall. Don't often give much away in aerial duels.

- Karl Ouimette, as their main ball playing stopper, likes to build up plays from the back but is an inaccurate passer of the ball (as seen against ColoradoSan Jose, and SKC) which could be exposed by putting early pressure on him. He is good at intercepting balls and winning them high up the pitch though, which is an important skill to have in the way that the Red Bulls like to play.

- Ronald Zubar plays as the sweeper and largely sits deep as a covering defender and while it is difficult to beat him in the air, he isn't the quickest ground-level defender and could get exposed against fast players.

- Zizzo often leaves spaces behind when he overlaps forward and tries to defend high up the pitch (as evident against Orlando and San Jose) which can be pinpointed as a weakness in his game while Lawrence on the other hand is more comfortable defensively and is better at positioning himself and killing opposing counters.

- They have two midfielders who screen in front of the defense and although they're adept passers with over 70% pass completion percentages, they're also strong on the defensive end. McCarty and Felipe both also average 2.7 tackles and 2.4 interceptions a game in 2016 which makes them strong defensive presences without the ball. They also get support from Kljestan who tracks back and puts in the work when the team doesn't have possession, as evidenced by his tackling and clearance averages of 1.4 and 1.3 a game respectively.

Defensive Transition - after losing ball possession

- Their biggest weakness defensively comes through the flanks with Sam and Grella offering little help to their fullbacks and that often leaves both Zizzo and Lawrence stranded in 1v2 situations where they're outnumbered and often beaten without getting the support that they need.

- They aren't very well coordinated defensively and often struggle to stop opponents from creating chances, which leads to plenty of work usually for them at the back end, which they don't have a lot of success dealing with ultimately, as seen so far this year.

- They rely heavily on their ball retention and interception abilities in midfield to win balls back before opposing counters get into dangerous areas.

Set pieces - Attacking

- Just as Vancouver last week, they possess as many as 10 players in their squad that are at least 180cm in height. They're also strong at attacking set pieces as a result of that and will be a threat against most teams in the league through this area, as proven by the fact that they've scored half their goals this year in this way.

- Their set piece takers vary between Felipe, McCarty and Kljestan who are specialists at shooting and delivering them. Each of them deliver their set pieces into similar areas but switch it up between sending them into the penalty area at either the near or far post, depending on where more bodies are available.

Set pieces - Defending

- Just as the height they have in the team makes them strong in the air offensively for set plays, the same applies at the other end. Do occasionally lapse in concentration on the odd set piece, but usually difficult to score on through this avenue.

- They deploy a mix between man marking and zonal marking with almost every player staying back when defending corners. Half of them end up marking players close to the six yard box while the other half covers the zones near and across the posts and penalty area.

- They form short walls with just three or four players with the rest of the team once again either man marking or zonal marking in the box on direct and indirect freekicks.

Other observations

- They have rotated a lot so far this season with depth players like Davis, Lade, and Duvall getting starts so it's possible that they come in for one of their first choice defenders for this game.

- Defensively, they have many problems with not a single clean sheet kept to date and without key defender Baah through injury. Offensively an enigma as shown by the fact that they haven't scored in 5 of their 8 games but in the other 3, scored 8.

- They often over-commit to attacking balls and leave themselves opened off at the back which makes them overly susceptible to counters.

- Even though they usually lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation, they often switch to a 4-3-3 whenever they're defending with Kljestan dropping deeper and supporting McCarty and Felipe (as evidenced by his defensive dashboards against Colorado and Orlando).