Harrison, N.J. – For 23 years it has been the same old story for the New York Red Bulls and on Tuesday night that tale saw the Major League Soccer originals fall short of their goal yet again. This time that goal was a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League Final and following this latest disappointment team captain Luis Robles admitted that it is more than a little frustrating.
“It’s very old,” Robles told the post-game press throng. In his usual straightforward manner, the Red Bulls keeper took us into the locker room to relay a conversation with fellow veteran Bradley Wright-Phillips.
“Brad sits next to me, and he’s sat next to me since 2013, and tonight he just says, ‘hey we’ve got to stop having this feeling’. “We’re sitting here,” Robles continued, “trying to figure out how to get over the hump.”
MLS has had trouble getting over the CCL hump, never having won the competition since the format was changed 10 years ago.
Last night Toronto FC took a step toward getting over that hump, knocking off Club America by a 4-2 aggregate score after securing a 1-1 tie at the fabled Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
Toronto booked a date in the CCL Final despite losing striker Jozy Altidore to injury after just seven minutes on Tuesday night, with the U.S. international joining Victor Vasquez, Justin Morrow, and Chris Mavinga on Toronto’s already overflowing injured list.
TFC rode a 12th-minute goal from Jonathan Osorio, responding in the best possible fashion to losing their power forward. Led by a stellar performance by aspiring USMNT goalkeeper Alex Bono the Reds kept America off of the scoreboard until Andres Uribe converted a stoppage-time penalty kick for America.
But while Toronto moves on to the CCL Championship match New York is left to ponder how they could dominate Chivas to a tune of 20 shots to one without scoring even once. Tuesday’s 0-0 draw, when taken alongside along last weeks’ 1-0 loss, raises questions that found no answers in last night’s post-mortems.
One possibility? Coach Jesse Marsch’s lineup choices. Over 180 minutes versus Chivas the Red Bulls boss could find just 32 minutes for Alejandro Romero Gamarra, AKA Kaku.
When the Red Bulls sent Sacha Kljestan packing to Orlando in the off-season the question became who would be New York’s playmaker. The answer looked to be Kaku but with Gamarra on the bench for most of this two-leg set the Red Bulls could merely huff and puff, they could not blow Rodolfo Cota’s door down.
Meanwhile, Bradley Wright-Phillips was used in a new role, as yep, a playmaker. Marsch has made a point of noting more than once this season that BWP is more than just a goal scorer, saying this last night: “Yeah, we were playing him almost like either like an underneath striker or like a No. 10, and when they go man-to-man, you know, then when his back is to goal, it’s hard for him to get away and find space.
So by putting another striker up there and having him float a little bit more underneath, he can catch balls, be facing the goal a little bit more, helping to put combinations and plays together, and then you know, the goal was also to have him joining in late for crosses, for balls in the box.
So yeah, it was overall, Brad’s a much better footballer than most people will give him credit for. There will days where we can do that, where we can almost use him as a second striker or an underneath striker or a No. 10.”
It sounds good in theory but here is an alternate theory. When your team scores zero goals over 180 minutes, and when your team dominates like the Red Bulls dominated Chivas on Tuesday night, perhaps it might have been better to have played your club’s all-time leading goal scorer as close to your opponent’s goal as possible while leaving the playmaking duties to someone else.