The New York derby between New York City FC (NYCFC) and New York Red Bulls (NYRB) at Yankee Stadium would be worth more than bragging rights this time around in the MLS – both sides were battling for playoff positioning. NYCFC are in the hunt for a home advantage and former Celtic manager Ronny Deila’s side would come away with a 5-2 victory. The five goals scored are the most they have ever scored against their local rivals.
This tactical analysis will explore the tactics used by both sides. We will provide analysis on the styles of play in and out of possession for both sides.
Both sides set up in the same formations, 4-2-3-1. Castellanos would make the headlines, scoring three and assisting one. Part of the City group, including Premier League side Manchester City, NYCFC look to play a similar system and style.
NYRB Out of Possession
NYRB played the first half looking to press high and win the ball in the NYCFC final third. The following graph shows the NYRB ground duels where they are attempting to close down the NYCFC full-backs when in possession.
When the ball is played out from the back by NYCFC, NYRB’s would look to close down quickly and not allow them to pass through the midfield. As we can see from the following image, seven New York Red Bulls players are in the opponent’s final third, with five NYCFC defenders and the goalkeeper.
This press gives RYRB the opportunity to transition quickly onto the counter-attack.
The tactics used by NYRB looked to rush the NYCFC defence who were keen to play out from the back. The need for clear organisation in this system is vital to ensure that no passing lanes are left open with gaps through, diverting the high press.
As much as NYRB looked to press high with organisation, they showed poor positioning and defensive organisation for the first goal. As the cross comes in we see 3 NYCFC attackers with 2 defenders in the following image. One of the CB’s has gone too far towards the ball. The right-sided central defender has gone towards the NYCFC attacker who was already in a position to be covered by an NYRB midfield player. The NYCFC centre forward is in a position in front of the NYRB left full-back, this is due to the central defenders being moved out of position.
NYRB In Possession
53% of RYRB attacks came down the right-hand side, with only 10% on the left. Shown below is the average position of NYRB players. The left-sided attacking player played very centrally and close to the central forwards.
When in possession, NYRB would look to attack quickly, using limited touches to move the ball fast. This style of play looks to pull opponents out f position with a change of direction and emphasis of attack, which happened quickly and often. 71% of all NYRB possessions were under 10 seconds during this match from a total of 100 possessions.
One reason for this short time in possession is the lack of options available to the man on the ball. This was especially true when the ball is won in their own half. As a counter-attack opportunity is available there is far too much space between players to keep hold of the ball. The following image ultimately shows the NYRB player having to turn back and start again due to the lack of forward options other than a long clearance.
From this, the ball is given away by a poor chipped pass forward. This then gives NYCFC the chance to counter-attack and, ultimately, level the game at 2-2. Due to the slow counter-attack and lack of options, the left-back ends up having the ball under close pressure. As he is stationary he is unable to play the ball long to the wide forward on the left. All other midfielders and defenders are covered well by the NYCFC forwards and midfield.
This was a repetitive issue for NYRB’s when in possession. If the ball was won high through a high press, then the attack could be fast and threatening. In contrast to this, when the ball was won in the defensive third, there was often too much space between teammates or NYCFC covered the options well. This forced NYRB’s to clear long or lose possession in their own half.
NYCFC Out of Possession
The NYCFC defence were hard to play through throughout the game. They were organised throughout and limited the space for NYRB attackers to build attacks.
From set plays, they would be in position quickly knowing NYRB would look to try attack at pace. The defence has set up for the throw-in below. The central defenders ensure they have kept their position within the centre of the penalty box. In contrast with the NYRB defending for the first NYCFC goal, the defenders (highlighted) for NYCFC have set themselves in an organised system, with the midfield supporting with defensive duties.
With numbers back to defend, NYRB find it difficult to pass the ball though the defence, looking for passes into the box. They are forced to play crosses into the box, with a lone striker against two central defenders. To emphasise, NYRB attempted 20 crosses in the game with only four being completed, a success rate of 20%.
The two central midfielders provided a screen in front of the back four throughout. This support gave NYRB a difficult time in finding a pass into the box as well as forcing play wide. Parks and Ring in these positions were able to carry out their defensive duties. They know the front four can hold up play and allow them to join attacks in the right moments. The following image shows the two central midfielders set up in front of the back four. This block ensures that there are limited forward options for the NYRB attack.
Both Parks and Ring made five interceptions each during this game. Ring also made 14 recoveries, with six coming in the opponents half. This protection, combined with the defences solid positioning made NYCFC hard to break down. Central defender, Chanot, registered 17 interceptions and 11 clearances, more than any other player on the pitch.
NYCFC In Possession
NYCFC managed to have twice as many shots as NYRB, 18 to 9 respectively. 13 of NYCFC shots come from within the penalty area, with eight on target. The forwards have great pace and quick footwork to be able to put the NYRB defence under pressure throughout.
62% of NYCFC attacks came through the centre of the field. In this 4-2-3-1 system, Maxi Morales is able to find space as the number 10 due to his team mate’s movements. Maxi has been able to position himself on the back of the NYRB defender, who has 2 other NYCFC players in view due to Mackay-Steven’s run inside. These rotations and movements around the penalty area make it difficult to cover all 4 attackers. This is further shown by the gap between the NYRB defence and midfield. The defenders are left 4 v 4 dealing with a pass from an NYCFC midfielder entering the final third unchallenged.
NYCFC would look to keep the ball and play out from the back as much as possible. They showed good interchanges in the defence and midfield, even under pressure from an NYRG high press. Their confidence on the ball was shown due to an understanding that if they were forced to clear the ball long, Castellanos up front would be able to compete with the NYRB defenders. Where possible, Maxi would drop deeper to become an additional player in the midfield to link play. In order to retain possession in the middle third and look to find runners coming forward to build play higher up the pitch. The following image shows Maxi dropping deeper and being able to combine with the right-back who is providing the attacking threat down the right-hand side.
Of the two sides, NYCFC showed the most patience in possession. Alongside this, they were showing more threat on the counter-attack. They showed a greater organisation as a team in comparison to their local rivals. Below we can see a counter-attack from an NYRB free-kick. With everyone aware of their roles, and good defensive organisation, NYCFC are able to begin a 4v 2 counter-attack.
In this specific circumstance, the NYRB midfield are able to catch up and make a challenge. Although, these early counter-attacks could have been responsible for the gaps opening up between the NYRB units.
In concluding this tactical analysis, NYCFC showed their strengths as the stronger side in New York. With NYRB recently hiring Gerhard Struber from EFL side Barnsley last month; the players are still in the early stages of adapting to his style of play. NYRB play with high intensity but lacked the defensive structure across all units on the pitch. NYCFC were able to manage this and come out clear winners in the end.
Ronny Deila’s side have shown they can manage a game well. The link-up play between the front four will cause any defence in the MLS a problem. Going into the play off’s, NYCFC will take momentum in the final game against Chicago in the regular season.