The New York Red Bulls continue their up and down season after a dramatic 3-2 victory in New England on Wednesday night.
The game winning goal in the 90th minute from the enigmatic Gonzalo Veron was both energizing for the Red Bull fan-base, as well as a major step in the right direction for the now 27-year old Argentinian winger.
However, the goal and the result masked what has been a major problem for the Red Bulls all season – the play of the midfield.
For too many stretches in New England, the Revolution controlled the game through the midfield and, of course, the Red Bulls conceded 2 goals for the second straight MLS regular season game.
The midfield was completely exposed in the match against NYCFC at Red Bull Arena, a 2-0 home loss for Red Bull.
It became obvious that Red Bull could not play through the midfield and instead opted for long balls to avoid NYC’s quartet of Yangel Herrera, Alexander Ring, Thomas McNamara and Rodney Wallace.
The Red Bulls used to dominate teams through their midfield, holding meaningful possession, and putting opponents under pressure in their top of the conference years.
The key to that pressure was former captain Dax McCarty, who was dealt to the Chicago Fire in the offseason for allocation money – money Red Bull has yet to utilize to improve the squad.
Although trading the US international to the Fire has opened up a slot for the young Tyler Adams, and some playing time for academy product Alex Muyl, the midfield has looked incoherent for much of the season.
Meanwhile in Chicago, McCarty has teamed up with Bastian Schweinsteiger to form one of the best connections in MLS between the backline and the attacking players for the Fire.
In prior years, the backline was able to stay at home. Attackers like Bradley Wright-Phillips could wait for service from McCarty and Sacha Kljestian. Without McCarty, Kljestian has at times looked lost on the field, and forwards like Wright-Phillips especially have been forced to drop back to help the midfield.
If Red Bull hopes to get back into contending for trophies again, the midfield must be addressed this transfer window.
If not, the Red Bulls will continue their up and down year.