In the first of a regular series, Pro Soccer USA asks players to break down a pivotal play from the previous week in Film Room Focus.
This week, we head back to Red Bull Arena and to the opening moments of the Hudson River Derby. New York Red Bulls players Tyler Adams, Sean Davis, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Kaku detail what led to Kaku’s second-minute goal (which you can see above) en route to a 4-0 drubbing of rival New York City FC.
ADAMS: “Good pressure to begin with, for sure. I think as soon as I see the ball go over my head, I know that my and Sean’s job has just begun. Obviously, with it being the first minute of the game, we emphasize how important second balls would be for the midfielders.
“I knew our centerbacks were never going to let [Villa] get in behind. So when he checks there, I know my job is to not let the ball go backward before going forward again.
“For me, just trying to get in front of him in what we call ‘forechecking our ball thief’ and starting the quick play. I see Sean in a good spot there, and he’s always ready for the ball to go forward. And he knows I’m the same. As our chemistry starts to grow, I know where he is at all times and he knows where I am at all times.
“Just a quick play moment to Sean there, and what a job he does to pick his head up to find Brad in behind. And Brad is obviously trying to pick out a corner, a low ball, and Kaku on a great rebound for the far post.”
DAVIS: “As a unit we like to be very compressed, we like to have what we call ‘the net together,’ the team together. When it pops out to Villa, we’re all trying to compress the field as much as possible. I see Tyler is going to make a play, and all week we talked about their line moving quickly and playing the ball forward quickly.
“At this point, I know Brad is always looking for the ball, he’s always trying to find ways to get in on goal. I have a look up. I know where he is based on where he was pressing. I just tried to find him again as their defense is trying to push up.
“I know I have space, I knew where Herrera was. They like to play out of the back, so I knew he was further up the field. With Maxi Moralez and their front three really trying to run off the ball, I knew that I’d have time — but not that much time.
“I just looked up quickly to get another idea of where Brad was, and you can see Maxime Chanot is trying to push up with the line to keep our guys offside but he has too much of a distance to cover. So at that point, I just tried to put Brad in on goal, and secretly hoping he would put it away so I would get the assist.
“If you look at Kaku and [Florian Valot], you can see they’re also sprinting off the ball to try and make a play, and that’s something we stress a lot — off the ball movement, ‘on the run,’ we call it. They are always trying to make a difference, trying to be an option. It’s no accident that Kaku was there to tap that home.”
WRIGHT-PHILLIPS: “Normally, I’d be up high closing down, but now I can see [Chanot] is obviously going to clear it.
“I know from training that we’re trying to win the second ball. As soon as we do, obviously they’re not ready. Their back line has got to be pushing up now, so I know I must have space in behind.
“Sean Davis has done well, to be fair, because we’re always harping on about playing forward anytime we get the chance and I just tried to be onside.
“I’m thinking now somehow I can get myself into the game. Sean saw me very quick. The chest, I was happy with, but the defender was coming and I couldn’t get that touch out of my feet. That’s why you see I don’t really get the angle for the actual goal. Jesse told us in the game to hit it low. I tried to keep it on the ground, and Kaku has done amazing for following up.”
KAKU: “After Sean gave it to Brad, I ran and followed the play. The defender did a weird transition because he didn’t see me, he only saw Valot. That’s why he wasn’t expecting me to come. I smelt [the goal].”
May 5, 2018; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Alejandro Romero Kaku Gamarra (10) celebrates his goal against New York City FC with New York Red Bulls midfielder Florian Valot (22) during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports