HARRISON, N.J. – For much of the season, the New York Red Bulls had struggled to start strong. Consistently, the team found itself under intense pressure and all too often, down a goal within the first 10 minutes of a match.
But since their 1-0 loss to Los Angeles two weeks ago – their last weak start – the Red Bulls have made it a point to press for a strong start. That paid off Saturday night, when New York got an impressive 2-0 home win over San Jose.
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With Rafa Márquez holding down the central-destroyer role in midfield, the Red Bulls seemed to thrive in their possession game, with five clear and legitimate chances on goal within the opening 25 minutes of the match. The midfielders and forwards chased down and pestered the Earthquakes’ back line and midfield, causing them to hurriedly force the ball upfied.
The Red Bulls credit a hard pressing style over the past few games for taking the early game struggles out of the picture.
“We start to press every team [more] in our defending game,” head coach Hans Backe said of the team’s strong start the past two games. “We look more lively as a team [when] we start higher as a team.”
Saturday night was sheer dominance from the Red Bulls, who used their two deep midfielders to control the match’s flow. Much like in Toronto last weekend, Tony Tchani and Márquez not only won the battle of the midfield and controlled the ball, they dictated the style and tempo of the offense moving forward.
“We both sit back there deep and we link that way, Rafa and I,” Tchani told MLSsoccer.com. “When he drops back, I can move forward a little and the other way too, it works that way with us.”
The presence of Tchani and Márquez centrally is freeing up Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards down the wings to push into the attack more and press the other team deep in their own end. With Lindpere’s pit-bull style on one flank and Richards’ speed on the other, pushing the pressure point for other teams, the Red Bulls are finding themselves as the aggressor when once their style was far more subdued.
“I think early on in the year, to start the game, we were almost back at the edge of our own penalty area, sitting there on the box, almost counterattacking style,” defender Tim Ream said. “Now, we’re pushed up more, far more.”
Ream credits the team’s central midfield in controlling the middle but also praises the wing play for getting up and after the ball in an aggressive fashion to take pressure off the back line.
“Now, we’re almost pressing in on the other team,” Ream said. “We’re almost 10, maybe five yards from the halfway line along our back four. That really limits what teams can do throughout the match and has taken the pressure off of us early because of the way we’re pressing the other team hard.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012