Chris Armas: “Listen, we lost 3-0 on the road with a game plan, right? I’m not going to say that I’m pleased.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
HANOVER, N.J. — For the first time since Sunday’s loss, Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas explained his decision not to press Atlanta United in the MLS Eastern Conference semifinal first leg.
The Red Bulls, who dropped a 3-0 result in the aggregate goals series, will try to pull off a miracle when they host Atlanta in the second leg at Red Bull Arena Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Armas and the Red Bulls took a ton of criticism for their tactics in what turned into one of the worst results in the team’s playoff history since 1996.
“If anyone is watching closely, we are a high pressing team and on certain days when teams build out of the back, we really get to have fun with our pressing,” Armas told reporters after practice at the Red Bull Training Facility Tuesday. “There are also times when teams bypass the pressing and we have another way of pressing from a deeper block and flatten out a little bit.
“Knowing that Atlanta was going to play direct, for us it is what we expected. We watched to the NYCFC series; 20 percent are long balls and that is against New York City. So against us, we really expected direct play. Which is, exactly what we saw. So, on the day we see 23 percent long balls from Atlanta without us all out pressing. So if we started pressing, then what was it going to be, 30 percent, 35 percent. The idea of not getting stretched was a good one.”
But did not exactly work out. Atlanta found the net first and the Red Bulls were forced to chase the rest of the game.
“Then we give up a few goals later in the game, but in the first half, we still tried to be tough and prepared to be aggressive even from a deeper block, which let the goals slip that way. … I know there is dialogue out there, but again we know on the inside with some of the pressing, that we press from deeper areas and again, thinking about [Miguel] Almíron and [Julian] Gressel and [Josef] Martinez not being the guys with all of the touches, was still something that we liked and let [Leandro Gonzalez] Pirez, [Michael] Parkhurst and [Jeff] Larentowicz have the ball, so we thought we had to pick our poison, so yeah we are not going to get into the entire thinking behind it, but we thought about compressing spaces and taking away where they could be dangerous.”
Asked if he was pleased with his game plan despite the 3-0 defeat, Armas responded: “Listen, we lost 3-0 on the road with a game plan, right? I’m not going to say that I’m pleased. The idea and the logic behind it, with what we have been successful with we’ve done that before. We have done it and again to all out press against a team that is going to just dump the ball, you are going to have just less numbers to deal with second balls. So, it would have went against every logic and common-sense thing knowing that they are going to play direct and have less guys to deal with second balls on the road in leg 1. I thought we thought about it the right way and I’m not pleased. I’m pleased with the work leading up, but not pleased with the result. So, we are where we are now, and we find ourselves in a little bit of a hole, but it is not going to change what we do in this second Leg, thinking to be aggressive.”