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Building preseason knowledge: New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake

Feb 14, 2013, 9:27 AM EST

Mike Petke

TUCSON, Ariz. – A ridiculously quick 2-0 lead – “Quick” as in three minutes! – may not have been surprising considering the starting lineups in Wednesday’s second contest in the Desert Diamond Cup.

Real Salt Lake’s B team was up against Thierry Henry and the rest of the Red Bulls top choices, after all. But how about this for a preseason kick in the head: it was the reservists from RSL who took that jaw-dropping early margin.

By the end the Red Bulls had made up, controlling the game as you would expect after those early wobbles and seeing out a 2-2 draw. But who cares about results? Here is what we can take away from Wednesday’s match in the surprising cold desert:

  • Jason Kreis wants to begin building the team’s weekly routine. Hence the choice to roll out a second-choice lineup. Saturday’s contest against Seattle will see the first-teamers start.
  • Red Bulls manager Mike Petke (pictured) wants to play in a 4-2-3-1 this year. New York’s starting lineup looked like this: Santiago Castano. Brandon Barklage, Markus Holgersson, Jamison Olave, Connor Lade, Dax McCarty, Juninho; Lloyd Sam, Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry; Fabian Espindola.
  • Thierry Henry played alongside the left, which was interesting to watch. He was more or less having his way against RSL young defense; things will surely be harder when the real shin-kicking starts. Still, having Henry operate in space, more or less as a left-sided playmaker has something interesting about it. It looked just a little like his old Arsenal days, when the fab Frenchman tended to drift left in Arsene Wenger’s alignment.
  • Petke has one conundrum, it seems: Where to play Juninho, the team’s veteran (let’s call him veteran-plus) Brazilian midfielder. He was next to Dax McCarty on Wednesday and paled him comparison to his ginger central midfield mate. While McCarty was his usual busy self, winning balls, linking the play, always involved, etc., Juninho was rarely involved. At all.
  • Clearly, a 38-year-old midfielder doesn’t want to waste too much energy in a preseason exhibition. Still, Juninho’s ability to cover ground and willingness to tackle and otherwise be involved seemed alarmingly sluggish.
  • Cahill played behind Fabian Espindola in the 4-2-3-1. I’ll know more when I talk to Petke today or tomorrow at a training, but it looks like the formation gives RBNY’s new manager a lot of flexibility. Espindola could play wider (he tended to drift wide in his RSL years anyway). Tim Cahill can play closer to goal. Henry is smart enough to play any of the positions. Which leaves Juninho …
  • More match details are here from the Red Bulls side.
  • Rich Balchan, formerly of Columbus and recently released from Chicago, is now in RSL camp. Balchan had some good matches in Columbus; not sure what the issue is, but the 24-year-old Indiana University man always seemed to have potential.
  • Know how you can tell it’s preseason? Kreis, usually impeccably dressed along the sideline, was in jeans and an RSL jacket. I had to look twice to make sure it was him.
  • As for the two early goals? Considering the Red Bulls top two goalkeepers (Luis Robles and Ryan Meara) were unavailable, it’s hard to be too concerned. The first goal, just seconds into the match, could possibly be linked to information being provided to Conor Lade on a back pass gone wrong.
  1. bullsrgreat1 - Feb 14, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    Steve,

    Any thoughts on how peguy luyindula looked? I watched some of the 2nd half and didn’t see much. Do you see him sticking with NYRB? If their not impressed who out there you seems like a logical choice for backup forward for them?

    • Steve Davis - Feb 14, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      In all honesty, I didn’t pay that much attention to the second half. Way too many reservists and guys (on either side) who will never play in MLS. Busy on other stuff by then.

  2. arjanroghanchi - Feb 14, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    i though peguy looked ok. good movement. although i pray never to seen him in action once the season starts, roy miller played a great ball in for the equalizer.

  3. wesbadia - Feb 14, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    I’m curious to see how the relationship between Henry and Espindola progresses. Even his time spent under Backe, Henry always tended to drift wide left and work his way in from there, or just play-make on the left flank. But Fabi was notorious for being on that left flank during his RSL days, mostly because he favors that left foot. I guess there are two ways of thinking about it: 1) You overload that left side with two very good attacking options, force defenders to respond, and then pull a bait and switch and have Henry serve one of his lethal crosses in to Cahill or Sam or whoever else they decide to put on the right/center. If the defense gets wise to that, you just force that left flank and work the ball in the box and hope for a shot. 2) The styles of Henry and Fabi don’t mix well together on the left side and the attack routinely stalls there, only to be turned over and the other team given a potential counter attack. I could see it going either way.

    The other thing I noticed was how quickly NYRB adapted to the high pressure from RSL. Once they settled down a bit after the two goals, they could keep possession and press the attack rather nicely. That was a big improvement over past seasons.

    Lastly, I think Juninho being pushed so far back in essentially a second d-mind role was a mistake. Honestly, I would’ve swapped him with Cahill and gave the latter the go-ahead to get more involved in the attack when need be. I know it’s not his role, but neither is it Juninho’s. I echo my original comment when I first heard NY was getting Juninho: I don’t see why they need a playmaker when they have Henry…

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