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Five things we learned as NY Red Bulls bow out of CONCACAF Champions League

The New York Red Bulls are out of the CONCACAF Champions League after failing to come back from a 1-0 first leg deficit against Guadalajara, drawing the second leg at Red Bull Arena a frustrating 0-0.

Chivas will now face Toronto FC in the final, while the Red Bulls will have to pick themselves up from this huge disappointment. Here are five things we learned from this tie.

1. 180 minutes, zero goals

“It’s almost impossible that you can somehow not find a way to score a goal and find a way to be so dangerous around the goal all night long but not make that final play,” Jesse Marsch said. He’s right, but it’s also inexcusable as well.

Over the two legs, the Red Bulls we’re the better team but that’s now how it works in this sport. You have to score in order to justify that, and the Red Bulls simply couldn’t do that. The mistake in the first leg that ultimately led to Chivas’ lone goal doomed the Red Bulls. They’ll look back at all the chances they’ve failed to convert. The chance by Bradley Wright-Phillips in Mexico, the first half shooting onslaught at Red Bull Arena.


CONCACAF refs aren’t to blame for the outcome, the Red Bulls have only themselves to blame. Chivas didn’t come to play at Red Bull Arena, they had only one shot the entire game. They mustered nothing in attack and defended for their lives, and are going to the final because of it. That’s how cruel this sport can be, and this elimination will rank high in the minds of fans, as they have to swallow another bitter pill. Twenty shots and zero goals over the 180 minutes will be tough to get over.

Simply put, the Red Bulls couldn’t put them away, and they don’t deserve to move on because of it.

2. USMNT needs to look at Aaron Long

He is a prime example of how valuable USL clubs such as New York Red Bulls II can be. Through his development with the USL affiliate, he won USL Defender of the Year in 2016, the same year Red Bulls II became USL Cup champions.

Since that time, he enjoyed a breakout 2017 season and is best center-back at the club, and one of the best in MLS. And for that, he deserves a call-up to the national team. The 25-year-old put in a man-of-the-match performance, winning aerial duels and nearly scoring in the last minutes of the second leg.

Long reads the game magnificently, and isn’t afraid of putting in a tackle or two. The last time USA played a friendly was against Paraguay in March, with Cameron Carter-Vickers and former Red Bull Matt Miazga at the heart of the defense. You think Long wouldn’t make a nice partnership with either of those two?

The youth movement has begun, Tyler Adams will feature more for the red, white and blue. Long’s performances justify a call-up to camp, and with the Gold Cup coming in 2019 he should get a mention.

3. The Curious Case of the 3rd sub

Alejandro Romero Gamarra came on for Daniel Royer in the 58th minute. He generated some spark, looked to link-up play with one, two-touch passes and whip crosses into the box. It left many to wonder why he didn’t start either leg, we’ll get to that later.

Carlos Rivas came on for Derrick Etienne in the 76th minute and played as a target man, looking to bring long balls down and win headers in the box. It barely worked, and so he couldn’t get into the game as much as Gamarra did, but that’s not the biggest issue. That is for something that didn’t happen.

From the time Rivas came onto the field, other potential subs were warming and then suddenly they all returned to the bench. A third sub wasn’t used. Marsch didn’t explain postgame, but what rhyme or reason could he use that would’ve been valid?

In a game of this magnitude, throwing everything including the kitchen sink is a no-brainer. Vincent Bezecourt didn’t see the field in the entire game and neither did Marc Rzatkowski who’s struggling to get into the team now. Chivas only used one sub the entire game… in the 92nd minute.

Either one of the two would’ve looked to make some sort of difference with the Red Bulls only needing one goal to push the tie into extra time. But alas, we’ll never know what Marsch was thinking as there was no third sub, and now no trip to the final.

4. Jesse’s team selection/tactics backfired… again

Instead of setting up the Red Bulls in a more attacking and arguably equally as defensive 4-2-3-1, Marsch set up his team in a 5-4-1 again and at times in a 5-3-2, worried that Chivas would knick an away goal. Bradley Wright-Phillips played behind Etienne Jr., Tyler Adams and Kemar Lawrence were wing-backs while Sean Adams played CDM.

And while all that seemed to work with the first-half onslaught of chances, the manner in which they did was never going to end in a goal. The Red Bulls launched long balls for Wright-Phillips and Etienne Jr. to head down, while most of their success came from playing the ball out wide across the ground for Royer and Valot.

Playing from wide positions ultimately led to Red Bulls winning corner kicks, which would be cleared out by Guadalajara. That’s usually not a problem, because the MLS side would win the ball back quickly and restart their attack, the main problem was not having enough creativity to break down Chivas. As a result, Michael Murillo who started in place of the suspended Aurelien Collin as a third center-back, ended up shooting balls into the crowd when things broke down.

See that was one of the many frustrations this game had, what was arguably more annoying was seeing Bradley Wright-Phillips play as a number 10 behind Etienne Jr. Why in the world was that happening? The greatest striker in club history and one of the greatest in MLS history was in the hole being a playmaker, that was astonishing to watch. That’s simply not his game, and as the game wore on he was more effective with his back to goal, spinning away from defenders and running into space to get a shot off. That’s also what makes Kaku’s benching even more stunning, because Kaku’s best position is behind the striker.

Also, Tyler Adams as a wing-back has to stop, that’s not his best position. His best is as a CDM in a two or three-man midfield. His supply of crosses into the box weren’t good enough, whereas if he were in the middle he’d be making runs through the center of the opposition’s defense or build up attacks with his passing.

“We tried everything but we just didn’t create enough in the final third.” Wright-Phillips said. “It was obviously tough because they were sitting back but I think we’ve got to do more, as attackers to create more.” It’s going to be interesting to see how Marsch figures out what his best lineup going forward, and whether to stick with five at the back or go with four.

5. The Red Bulls face a long season ahead

Quick question, how many teams as of right now are better than the Red Bulls in the East?

Toronto are the gold standard in MLS, and probably CONCACAF as they should be seen as favorites against Chivas. NYCFC have made the best start in club history, and were unbeaten against the Red Bulls in league play last season. Atlanta are rolling and their offense is downright scary. Even Orlando picked up a win over New York a few weeks ago, with questions surrounding the future of manager Jason Kreis.

Right there were four teams, and that’s without mentioning Columbus and New England who are currently ahead of New York in the standings. The Red Bulls have a lot of work to do, they’re not favorites for both the Supporters Shield or MLS Cup. Making the playoffs is imperative, but who expects the Red Bulls to make a deep run?

The high of last year’s deep incredible run to the U.S. Open Cup final ended in a loss. It’d take a lot just to get back there again, and it’d take a lot to reach the CONCACAF semifinals too. And while it’s admirable and fantastic that the club promotes it’s youth players from Red Bulls II, the club will have to eventually spend money on more than one player and not just trade draft picks and Targeted Allocation Money.

Eventually, losing at the final hurdle will stop and a trophy or two will come. But for now, it feels like a long time before better days are ahead.

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