HANOVER, N.J. — In Germany, Marc Rzatkowski said it’s called “a lucky hand.” Here, it is referred to as the “Midas touch.”
Whatever county’s expression you prefer, New York Red Bulls coach Chris Armas has it when it comes to his recent substitution patterns.
On Saturday, Omir Fernandez came off the bench to score in a 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake. A week earlier, both Fernandez and Kaku were goal-scoring second-half substitutes in a 2-0 victory at FC Cincinnati.
“I think Chris does a really good job in reading the game and the whole staff, they make crucial subs,” Fernandez said. “And I think we’ve seen it over the past few games, our subs come in and make a big difference. And it shows to our teams depth as well that we have players that can come in, in big games, and make a difference as well.”
- On May 19, Tom Barlow was brought on and the rookie scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Atlanta United.
- On May 11, Fernandez had a goal and an assist off the bench as a rotated Red Bulls won convincingly in Dallas.
- On May 4, Derrick Etienne came on to score the decisive goal in a come-from-behind win over the LA Galaxy.
- On April 15, Brian White replaced Bradley Wright-Phillips to score the go-ahead goal in a 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City.
- On March 16, Alex Muyl came off the substitute’s bench to score the equalizing goal and the winning tally in a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
All told, Armas’ substitution decisions have helped the Red Bulls accrue 13 out of their 24 points on the season.
“He has been making a lot of great changes for the last couple of games,” Kemar Lawrence said. “I love it, and he has confidence in all of these guys. I feel like sometimes just to pick the lineup, he’s like, who do I start, because this guy has been spot on all week long. So for him to switch out a guy [after] 68 minutes that he might not really want to switch out yet, that takes a lot of confidence as a coach.”
Armas shudders to take credit, he said no coach wants to. He said of course there’s ideas heading into matches, based on minutes accrued, the game plan, the opponent. But ultimately it comes down to the mental and physical preparation, and the execution by the players when they step onto the field.
“I think some of those moves have been right and have worked out for us. That’s nice to see mainly for the player to come in and do well,” Armas said. “Getting the credit, that is never something coaches and players [care about]. I think you want to win. So on those days, if you bring in a guy and he scores a goal, but you lose, how does that feel?
“I think what the coaching staff feels best about is, I think it’s a reflection of confidence and a preparedness that we try to pride ourselves in, to give guys courage and belief to not make mistakes, to go after games. And then to understand again, how to fit into what the demands of our playing style, as well as what that specific moment of the game will require.”