Jul 28, 2018; Harrison, NJ, USA; Columbus Crew defender Josh Williams (3) heads the ball toward goal as New York Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis (27) defends during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
There was bound to be some lineup changes after the Red Bulls beat D.C. United, 1-0, on a hot and humid Wednesday night at Audi Field. But for the first time as head coach, Chris Armas went with a 3-3-3-1 formation against Columbus Crew SC.
It was a system the club used in the Concacaf Champions League — home vs. Club Tijuana and at Chivas de Guadalajara, for the first half of a 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy in Carson on April 28 and in the second half of a 1-1 draw against Columbus on June 9.
“We had to really put things on our terms at their place in that same structure,” Armas said. “Tonight was opposite. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain it, but no matter what formation that we’re playing in, if we’re late to plays, a step late, if we’re not up for that part of it, they can just pick you apart.”
Slow start looms large
Maybe more than the change in formation, the Red Bulls were doomed by a slow start. They’ve used a second-half surge to beat Sporting Kansas City and the New England Revolution, but their effort in the first half in each of those games was much better than against Crew SC, who scored three goals in the opening 31 minutes.
“We know Columbus is a good passing team, they probably lead the league in possession, if I had to guess,” midfielder Tyler Adams said. “You give them a little bit of time, they’re going to play out. If we were a step late, like we were, they’re going to expose us. On the day, we need to do a better job at that and they showed what a good passing team they really are.”
Losses usually lead to self reflection and while the Red Bulls always review film of the last game before preparing for the next one, goalkeeper Luis Robles said there’s something positive to grab from the disappointing defeat.
“We know what we’re capable of, we know what we can be and tonight’s a good reminder that we’re not there yet,” Robles said. “But I do believe we have the right leadership, we have the right mentality, the right characters within our locker room to bounce back knowing that, since we since are on the business end of the season, 13 games left, every point matters, every game matters. It’s a hard lesson, but I know we’re going to learn from it.”