The same tact both Eastern Conference teams used to grind out wins in back-to-back weeks will likely be on display at Red Bull Arena Saturday night.
It’s not the usual tactics employed by Minnesota United, but if it worked for Orlando and Chicago…
“They have a lot of weapons, they can hurt you in transition and they can certainly adopt the tactic that we’ve seen the last few games, teams playing very direct,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “Either way, we have to become good at each way with what teams can do, from game to game and within a game which means it takes decision making and reading situations and then executing.”
Armas said he’s seen teams change the way they usually play, citing specifically the Fire opting not to connect passes between Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty in the midfield, in order to bypass lines and negate the Red Bulls strength of pressing and counter pressing high up the field.
And while the end result is consecutive league losses for the first time since May, 2017, Armas said the Red Bulls are “encouraged, not discouraged,” by the current state of affairs.
“It’s another thing we’re facing early. Come playoff time, yes we can press, we can defend in a mid block, we can defend long balls,” Armas said. “Maybe, it just adds to who we are and makes us harder to beat. We like this challenge.”
In order for the Red Bulls to avoid a third consecutive shutout, they’ll need to solve a Minnesota United defense that has been fortified in the offseason with the additions of hard-tackling defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso and center back Ike Opara.
“I think he’s a winner, we like him,” Armas said of Opara. “I think he’s aggressive, he runs, he steps to plays. We rate him highly.”
Up the field, the Loons have some of the league’s top scoring threats, specifically Darwin Quintero.
“They have a lot of dangerous attacking pieces too,” midfielder Sean Davis said. “We have to anticipate that teams are going to come into Red Bull Arena, sit in a low block and look to play direct to their pacy attackers. I don’t think Minnesota will look at this game any differently than Orlando or Chicago. We have to be prepared for that.”