In recent years, the Red Bulls have been a team that has been built around superstars.
From Juan Pablo Angel, Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, the franchise has relied upon its stars to get it through the toughest moments. The strategy has not been without its merits – after all, New York has won a Supporters’ Shield title and made it to the Eastern Conference Final in the past two seasons – but in the end, it has fallen short of the ultimate goal: The elusive first MLS Cup in franchise history.
Coach Jesse Marsch is looking to change that. It’s not about building a team around stars for Marsch. It’s about making the team the star. With a stylish and aggressive brand of high-tempo soccer, Marsch is getting a team that is producing more than the sum of its parts. Instead of relying on individual brilliance, the Red Bulls have been molded around a strong team ethic.
“I think Jesse is a great coach,” midfielder Felipe said after Sunday’s 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy at Red Bull Arena. “The way he wants to play with a lot of pressure, hard work – [it] gives everyone confidence on the team. Every day work, push very hard.”
One of the more unheralded acquisitions of the offseason, Felipe has quickly become one of the first names on the teamsheet for Marsch. Along with Dax McCarty and Sacha Kljestan, the midfield trio has been one of the driving forces behind the Red Bulls’ strong start.
“[The three of us] are comfortable players on the ball,” McCarty said to the media after Sunday’s match.
“I think that’s our job: To get the team out of tough situations and to get our forwards scoring chances. I have confidence in Sasha and Felipe, and they have confidence in me. We realize that us three are on the same page right now and we’re trying to dominate games.”
Look Ahead: Colorado Rapids
The Red Bulls will continue their stretch of three games in seven games with a midweek encounter against the Colorado Rapids at Red Bull Arena Wednesday (7 PM, MSG).
New York will undoubtedly go into the match as the favorite, but should be weary of a Colorado side that has played better on the road that it has at home. The Rapids recorded their only win on the road – a 4-0 drubbing of FC Dallas on April 10 – and have yet to surrender a goal away from home.
With such a short turnaround after Sunday’s match and another one upcoming against the Revolution Saturday, the Red Bulls’ depth will be tested. But the team isn’t worried about any changes upsetting the chemistry on the field.
“We have a good group, a good team,” Mike Grella said Monday. “That’s one of our strengths. “We’re not nervous about these games at all; I think we’re looking forward to it.”