Red Bulls fans worried that head coach Hans Backe would roll out a 4-4-1-1 formation against San Jose, which would have made this column more difficult to write.
But in honor of Backe’s decision to go with two forwards in a 1-0 victory against the Quakes, here is a 4-4-2 inspired by the manager’s decision to use a 4-4-2.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Four things to like:
Lindpere’s night: It was a quiet evening for the Red Bulls midfield, but Joel Lindpere – playing centrally, where he prefers to line up – had a fantastic night. He went box-to-box and scored the game’s lone goal with a well-taken strike in the 55th minute. He also had two good first-half chances to score.
The other Juan: Teenager Juan Agudelo looked fearless in his first MLS start. At San Jose, Agudelo became the first product of the club’s academy to start in a league game. He still needs to time his runs better, but his hard work and effort helped harass the Earthquakes backline all game long and his 57th-minute shot forced John Busch into a nice save.
The formation: Kudos to Backe for the formation, which provided some balance to the team. Two weeks ago in Philadelphia, Backe used a 4-5-1 that didn’t work at all in a 2-1 loss. On Saturday night, the visiting Red Bulls had the better of the quality chances and could have scored more than just one goal.
Winning far and away: Last time in San Jose, New York got drilled 4-0 following an early red card that forced the team to 10 men. On Saturday night, the Red Bulls got their sixth road win of the season a year after not winning a single match in their visitors’ kits. New York now have won three straight road playoff games.
Four things not to like:
[inline_node:322256]Stop the presses: In the opening 25 minutes of the match, San Jose pressed New York quite well. The Red Bulls had difficulty stringing together three passes in the beginning due to the Earthquakes' high pressure and quick counterattack.
Miller’s miscue: In the 19th minute, left back Roy Miller let a ball go through him and onto the path of a streaking Geovanni. With a touch, the Brazilian fired a shot that went inches wide of the goal. Had Miller simply cleared the ball, the Red Bulls would have avoided the scare.
Designated let-down: Neither of New York’s Designated Players – Juan Pablo Angel and Rafa Márquez – distinguished themselves in the match. Ángel had a quiet night up top and Márquez again seemed a step slow, a bit hasty in his challenges and his distribution at times wanting.
Getting crowded: Throughout the second half, goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul was pelted and peppered by San Jose’s supporters with streamers. At one point in the 58th minute, it looked like he was the target of a small bag of trash. A homefield advantage is a nice thing and Buck Shaw was rocking on Saturday night, but there should be no room for disrupting the flow of play by physically intimidating a player.
Two things to look forward to:
The battles: This was a tightly-played contest between two teams looking to not lose. With the result, San Jose should come out flying on Thursday night, looking to equalize.
The atmosphere: Despite the disappointing actions of a few supporters, Buck Shaw was a great and frothy environment for a playoff game. Now, New York must come out and support their club in a similar way.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012.