New York Red Bulls fall to Philadelphia Union at home

The New York Red Bulls prove that possession doesn’t always win you games

It’s an age-old concept, if you have a lot of the ball, there’s a strong chance you’ll win the game. To me, the team you support having dominating spells of possession makes the game less stressful to watch, but it doesn’t always equal goals.

One of, if not the most intense periods in football, is watching your team perform a low block against a club that’s effective on the ball. On the flip side, the most frustrating moments in football come from watching your side play keep ball without an ability to produce an opportunity to score.

An issue, as we once more found out for the New York Red Bulls, is their inability to be effective offensively or defensively this season. The New York Red Bulls showcased these problems whilst suffering another defeat, this time at home to Union. Have a look at the stats sheet, Red Bulls ended the game with 54% possession with amazingly only one shot on target.

The New York Red Bulls need to capitalize on goal-scoring opportunities

Okay, 54% possession isn’t groundbreaking. It’s not a complete masterclass in possession that could possibly rival what we’ve seen from any of Pep Guardiola‘s football sides over the past decade, but it’s still a majority share of the ball, with nothing to show for it.

New York Red Bulls started the game with urgency, creating an attempt at goal within the opening moments of the game. Only for Stroud to poorly strike the ball far wide, allowing Union keeper Andre Blake to watch it roll out for a goal-kick.

15 minutes in, and it’s a head in hands moment for Daniel Royer, who performed his best Raheem Sterling impression for the Red Bulls. An excellent, low driven cross into the box by Jared Stroud, met by the left foot of Royer, who sent it over the bar. I think we’re still waiting for the ball to come back to Earth now.

Philadelphia Union hit back with their own calamity in front of goal only 10 minutes later. A blistering run from Santos down the right flank, speeding into the box with only one New York defender desperately tracking back. Santos found strike partner Przybylko… who failed to connect with the ball from 8 yards out and lost it to Kyle Duncan of the Red Bulls.

Fast forward barely another 10 minutes and New Jersey-born Brenden Aaronson connected sweetly from outside the area, opening the scoring for Union. Fast, direct football from Philadelphia, causing havoc amongst the Red Bulls defence and creating space for Aaronson to strike it into the top left corner from distance.

The second half brought more pressing from New York Red Bulls. More sideways passing around the area, peppered in with some hopeful crosses and another disappointing attempt at goal from only 6 yards out, this time Tom Barlow side-footing it wide of the post.

On the 68th minute, someone finally remembered how to finish from close range. This time German forward Kacper Przybylko had no trouble placing home Andrew Woottens’ perfectly timed pass across the 6-yard box. Przybylko redeeming himself for his earlier swing and a miss inside the area.

A goal that displayed strong build-up play and great movement off the ball. However, it was made easier by New York’s midfield and defence, or lack of it for that matter. With 13 minutes to play, substitute Matt Real made an instant impact for Union. Real was fed a slicing through ball by Ilsinho, and fired across goal from inside the box. The ball slamming back off the post and into the opposite corner of the net.

Anthony Fontana hit a peach of a volley and was denied a terrific goal by New York’s keeper Ryan Meara. As with the vast majority of the Philadelphia Union’s chances, the strike came from being allowed copious amounts of time and space. New York Red Bulls put on a poor defensive display and suffered for it. Often too slow to react to immediate threats, or lazy to close out potentially detrimental crosses. A perfect recipe for disaster.

Union turned up to be clinical and decisive. With the majority of their 9 attempts at goal being on target, and their build-up play always with scoring in mind, the added lack of defensive assurance from Red Bulls means Union can travel back to Philly with the win after falling to Columbus Crew in midweek.

New York Red Bulls are without a win in four games since they beat city rivals New York City FC in August. They’ll hope to pick themselves up for DC United on Saturday, but the club is struggling on both ends of the pitch right now.

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Whilst I’ve fixated on their defensive abilities, or lack of it, their attack is below lackluster. Red Bulls had a crucial opportunity to take the lead early into the game and instead found Row Z from barely yards out. It’s a ball that many forwards would’ve relished the opportunity to have, and one that Royer will greatly regret not being able to finish. Who knows what taking the lead within the first 15 minutes of the game would’ve done for Red Bulls’ confidence?