NYRB v. Seattle: The Post Mortem

I’ll be brutally honest: this was probably one of the worst NYRB performances I’ve ever seen. No heart and no real interest from the first whistle. Three-nil was a flattering scoreline – it should probably have been four or five.

It’s going to be a very long and humiliating season if this is the way the boys are going to play. I’d like to hope it was opening-game jitters, but something tells me this will only be the beginning.

So what went so wrong? Everyone’s been talking about the master tactician that Juan Carlos Osorio (JCO) is, but he clearly got it wrong last night. Here’s a quick and dirty list to explain why the Bulls had the crap beaten out of them:

1. 4-5-1 formation. Opening with a defensive formation sets the wrong tone from the beginning. You’re playing against an expansion team for Christ sakes and you come out with one forward? It’s never a heathly situation when the coach makes it clear he’s playing for the draw from the first whistle. The long balls to Richards and Kandji on the wings were completely ineffective and easily taken out of the air by the Seattle fullbacks. There was no enforcing presence in the middle of the park. Only in the second half, when the Bulls switched to a more attacking formation did they even begin to sniff Seattle’s goal.

2. Defensive/goalkeeping woes. Nothing new here – we all know this has been a long-standing New York problem but it looked particularly bad last night. I felt like I was watching my high school JV soccer team.

Boyens and Petke were running into each other (until Boyens was hauled off in the 26th minute for his poor performance) and the first goal came from poor (or rather, lack of) marking. Montero was left edge of the box with five yards of space around him, and Cepero was in poor position to deal with the shot.

On the second goal, Cepero was again at fault for letting the ball go through his legs. And then the third goal: I couldn’t help but laugh when the hard-working but ineffective Petke had the ball stolen off his boot by Montero. Cepero failed at Montero’s fake allowing the Colombian to easily slot home and complete the rout.

3. Personnel. I really don’t know what JCO was thinking when he sent out this team. Now, I love Juan Pablo Angel, but he just can’t play up top by himself: he’s too slow and has a bad habit of disappearing for much of the game. Richards would lose the ball every single time he got the ball in an advanced position. Kandji, 6″6, was reguarly out jumped by the 5″10 Seattle fullback.

Rojas, despite his good ball skills, is clearly not a defensive midfielder and gave up every time he lost the ball. Coincidentally, he was the only Bull to threaten Seattle’s goal with a dipping shot after the game was settled. Pietravallo was out of his league as well as Boyens and Goldthwaite.

Hopefully JCO can pull his squad together and regroup after this disaster. He has already signed Costa Rican defender Carlos Johnson as well as veteran midfielder Alberto Celades. These players should provide much needed help and cover for the current team because otherwise, as was shown last night, the Bulls are facing a long, difficult campaign.

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