Bradley Wright-Phillips shouldn’t be the lone striker up front. (Noah K. Murray – USATODAY Sports)
Will Smith is a long-time Red Bulls fan who lives in Brooklyn.
By Will Smith
Special to FrontRowSoccer.com
A 1-3-1 start was not when the defending Supporters Shield champion Red Bulls had in mind when they broke camp in March, but it is what they have.
Having lived through the miserable 1999 and 2009 seasons, I am well aware of the “Curse of the Nines.” I would like to see the team avoid the same misery in 2019. Here are 11 thoughts on how the team can avoid inflicting this incredible level of suffering on its fan base again:
1) Bradley Wright-Phillips is a year older and a year slower. He shouldn’t be starting alone up top anymore. He needs either Brian White, Mathias Jorgensen or Derrick Etienne Jr. next to him every game.
2) In light of No. 1 above, a formation switch is necessary. In light of our troubles this year, I recommend an old school 4-4-2 with a flat back four and a straight line midfield. Sometimes you just need to get back to basics to prevent defensive and mental lapses.
3) Kaku has been sub-par in the middle since Chris Armas took over. The time has come to move him out wide right. This will work because, in a flat back four, Michael Amir Murillo will be staying home more often instead of making vacating overlapping runs.
4) The issue with Murillo’s overlapping runs aren’t the runs themselves, but his inability to track back on defense. For a talented player, he gets beaten too often on the counter attack and is frequently caught ball watching.
5) With Kaku moving out wide right, a new central midfield pairing is needed. Christian Cassares is a bit raw, but he is a true talent. He needs to play in the vacated Tyler Adams position. With the current roster, the phonetic Marc SHOT-KOWSKI needs to be the ” No. 10.” That said, that is not how he best serves this team nor is it his best position so…
6) The team needs to bring in a real No. 10. From my standpoint, it doesn’t need to be someone who plays the high press as I am looking to move to a more traditional 4-4-2. Where to find him then?
7) Well, he’s not on the roster presently, I assure you. Omir Fernandez is too green and doesn’t understand the value of passing the ball vs. running through traffic. No one else on the team is even remotely a possibility.
8) In light of No. 7 above, Red Bull needs to look outside the roster and bring in a game changer. If they are not willing to spend the money on a Carlos Vela type (and they should be as it is their duty to field the best team possible), they can look closer to home.
9) Giovanni dos Santos is still under contract to the league, but is without a team since the LA Galaxy cut him. Yes, he is overrated and worthless defensively, but he does have a reputation to reclaim, which can be a great motivating factor. And he can certainly make passes and score some goals. If the league eats half his salary (and they should because it is better than paying him to stay at home and watch Netflix), this is a low risk, high reward move, particularly in a 4-4-2 formation.
10) Not only would this be winning move, it would be a more entertaining move. Right now, the great albeit aging BWP aside, this is a team of very nice, solid players that lack dynamic tension and, as we say in Italy “sprezzatura” (Look it up). There is no one on the roster with the ability to do something magical or make you say “Wow!” This also, by the way, negatively impacts attendance as no sane person (and, no, I do not consider myself sane) wants to spend their hard earned cash washing Sean Davis make back passes. This team is very dull right now.
11) Armas is being outcoached every game. He is unable to adapt to other teams adapting to our game plan. It may be the personnel. It may be Armas. Add in the missing piece and, if the next five games, look like the first five, Armas should be out of work.
Something has to give. Save 45 minutes against a miserable San Jose team in which the Red Bulls ran rampant, the team has been deeply sub-par, badly coached and completely lacking in entertainment value this season.
Something has to be done or 2019 will end up looking a lot like 1999 or 2009.