The New York Red Bulls are a singularity within the world of Major League Soccer. Other teams have similar systems, but nobody is quite like the Red Bulls. Under the helm of manager Gerhard Struber and the greater Red Bull Football hierarchy, New York has become a brutal, high-pressing defensive football team, elite defense and pressing is in full force in 2022.
The Red Bulls are in the top ten for goals allowed and expected goals allowed, blanking top offensive clubs like FC Dallas and the New England Revolution along the way. If it weren't for some blunders against Columbus and Montreal, the Red Bulls record and defensive record would be even stronger.
That elite defense starts at the top with the pressure. The Red Bulls have almost 300 more pressures than the second place team in the league, and they also lead MLS in tackles. This is a physical and fast full team defense.
And now it's Orlando City's biggest test yet.
Orlando City has been playing attractive football as of late. Hot form from Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara is leading to quality possession football in the final third and a lot of scoring opportunities. Orlando loves to play out of the back, and quick possession play between the likes of Joao Moutinho and Robin Jansson is a key part of that.
Sunday will be a massive test on that ability to build from the back, or to adapt the style of play. Trying to posses against New York is a recipe for disaster. Even though Orlando has the talent advantage and is playing at home, Oscar Pareja and the Lions would be smart to play a more pragmatic game.
Look to target Kara on long balls over the top to break lines of pressure. Cede possession to the Red Bulls and force them to break you down with the ball instead of in quick transition moments. New York is a unique matchup in MLS and the only way to beat them is to craft a unique game plan that forces them out of their comfort zone. We've seen Pareja adjust his plan opponent by opponent, and we'll see if he and his Orlando City team can match the pressure of the New York Red Bulls.