To get everyone ready for Atlanta United’s showdown with the New York Red Bulls, we spoke with Metro Fan TV’s Fernando Gonzalez to get his take on Chris Armas, Kemar Lawrence, and Bradley Wright-Phillips.
DSS: The Red Bulls haven’t really skipped a best since the departure of Jesse March mid-season and the introduction of Chris Armas as head coach. Have you seen any noticeable changes in philosophy/tactics since the latter took over?
MFT: There’s definitely been a change since he’s taken over, but not so much with philosophy as much as some tactical changes. The degree of those changes and how much they’ve affected the team has been a pretty big debate within the fan base since he’s taken over. Personally, I think he’s trying to get the team to learn to play a bit differently when the moments call for it, but this team has played basically just one way all year so it’s been a little bit of a struggle at times for the team to know what to do in certain situations. Thankfully because the core is still the high press, the team has been able to sort things out and get results. The other big change was losing Florian Valot, who we don’t have a like for like replacement. Some of the adjustments have also been trying to sort out some new things since the replacement(s) are fundamentally different players. That said, I fully expect the highest of intense press style for Sunday.
DSS: Kemar Lawrence just re-signed with NYRB after garnering some European interest over the past year or so. How important is he to the club?
MFT: This is extremely important since in all honesty not only because he’s arguably one of if not the most talented left back in MLS, but also how crucial he is to how we play. His ability to push forward in the attack but also be able to track back and defend in emergency situations at an instant is absolutely insane. While we have some really good prospects in the pipeline, he’s really hard to replace.
DSS: Bradley Wright-Phillips is suspended for Sunday’s match due to yellow card accumulation. How big of a loss is that for NYRB and who will likely step in?
MFT: This is a significant loss. It’s not just losing your best striker. It’s losing one of the best strikers in MLS history. That’s no easy task to replace. Since we no longer have someone like Gonzalo Veron on the bench, it’s likely up to some homegrowns to fill in. We have a few options. Brian White is the most like for like stylistically to BWP. He did score in his debut, but against an admittedly less than good Houston Dynamo team. Another option is Derrick Etienne. He’s got plenty of experience at this point. The problem is he’s not a lone striker and it’s not his best position. The wild card is Anatole Abang, who gives the team a completely different look but he also hasn’t played in MLS since early 2016. My bet is it’s White. My second bet would be a two striker formation. Other long shot options: Daniel Royer or Andreas Ivan.