Wednesday night was a bad night for both Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls. While Atlanta was pounded by the Chicago Fire 5-1 with Leandro Gonzalez Pirez handed his marching orders not even 15 minutes in, RBNY finished two men light and on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline at the Houston Dynamo.
Which brings us to Sunday: a fired-up crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium following the Women’s World Cup final, still thinking on a dust-up between Kemar Lawrence and LGP in the dying moments of a 1-0 Red Bulls win in Harrison back in May. There won’t be a rematch between the two players thanks to LGP’s red on Wednesday, but there’s still sure to be an edge to this one considering a national TV audience, a pair of heavy defeats on Wednesday, May’s events, and what happened the last time these two clubs met at the Benz, a 3-0 Atlanta win in the first leg of 2018’s Eastern Conference Finals. (Coincidentally, dating back to the two clubs’ initial matchup in 2017 - Atlanta’s first match in team history - it has never beaten the Red Bulls in the regular season, going 0-4-1.)
It was almost as heavy a defeat for RBNY in Houston as it was for Atlanta up in Chicago. What were some of the key things that stood out to you from that night, and is it just a case of throwing the result out the window and simply just moving on to the next match?
The match against Houston was a complete disaster. From the start, we were extremely short handed in personnel. Defenders Aaron Long, Tim Parker, and Kemar Lawrence all weren’t available for selection which left coach Armas in a pickle. The only defenders he had available were Connor Lade, Kyle Duncan, rookie Sean Nealis, Amro Tarek, and a fatigued Michael Amir Murillo back from a Gold Cup run. With these restraints on Armas, it was always going to be a tall task. He ended up rolling out a back 5 which left midfielder Alex Muyl as a right wingback, Kyle Duncan on the opposite flank, and Connor Lade, Michael Murillo, and Amro Tarek in a back 3. I found it odd that instead of playing Sean Nealis, Armas decided to play 2 fullbacks in a back 3. I can’t blame Armas too much for this result as he didn’t have the resources. He tried something different in desperation and it simply didn’t work.
Things did get a little feisty as Michael Amir Murillo and Kaku were both sent off in the second half, so they’re both out against Atlanta. RBNY will also be without Aaron Long and possibly Kemar Lawrence, whose Jamaican side was knocked out of the Gold Cup by Long and the U.S. How does the club mitigate against that missing personnel for Sunday in the light of Wednesday’s loss?
The red cards at the end of the Houston game were a real slap in the face to a team already having their depth tested. Murillo and Kaku have some qualities which our squad doesn’t always possess. They bring the flair and vision and without it, our team tends to look dull. Until yesterday, our chances of getting a result in Atlanta were slim to none. After getting knocked out of the Gold Cup, Jamaican international Kemar Lawrence and Haitian international Derrick Etienne Jr. are available for selection this Sunday. Right now, the most worrying thing about going into the match against Atlanta is our defense. Having Kemar back in the starting lineup would make me much more confident and would stabilize that part of the backline.
After the incident between Lawrence and Tito Villalba a few months ago, a little buzz was heard around here that although MLS are trying to paint Atlanta United and Orlando City as rivals, a case could be made for a burgeoning rivalry between Atlanta and RBNY. With respect to D.C. United. do you get just the hint of that, or is it just a little banter?
Following yet another intense match between the two clubs last month, we saw a quick flare up between Tito Villalba and Kemar Lawrence. With discussions of a possible rivalry brewing before that game, the fight at the end has made me believe that this may in fact be the birth of a new rivalry. If we are greeted by another close, intense match with more moments like recent matches, it would no doubt be one of the better rivalries this league has seen in past years. It would be something organic rather than something manufactured.