NYCFC Film Breakdown: Red Bulls First Goal And Why It Happened

After getting a positive response with my first film breakdown attempt I’ve decided to make this a weekly section on In this film breakdown, I dissect the first goal the Red Bulls scored against NYCFC on March 10th, 2015. To start this off let me point out that MLSSoccer shows that NYCFC used a 4-4-2 formation yet FOX Sports 1 showed a 4-2-3-1 formation with Andrew Jacobson and Ned Grabavoy as the two defensive midfielders. That said I’ll be going with what FOX Sports 1 showed which appears to be the case with the first photo we have.


Shown in the first photo we have NYCFC’s three midfielders Pablo Alvarez (22), Mix Diskerud (10) and David Villa (orange cleats) in their roles and Ned Grabavoy pressuring what appears to be Felipe. Lloyd Sam is the Red Bull’s player near  the upper left corner (nearest to the side line referee) marked by RJ Allen. Sacha Kljestan is standing right below him near Chris Wingert and Andrew Jacobson.



Under pressure by Grabavoy, Felipe passes the ball back to Dax McCarty and Mix moves in to pressure McCarty.



Immediately before Mix can get to him, McCarty passes the ball to an unmarked Kljestan. You’ll see Villa and RJ Allen pointing to Kljestan as if their saying (using my own intuition) “why is this man unmarked”. Though RJ Allen has to stay put because he can’t leave Sam alone at the right wing. In this photo you can tell that by having Felipe (8) dropping down, Andrew Jacobson has to decide who he needs to cover. Either follow Kljestan or stay with Felipe. With Grabavoy (11) now running back it might provide Jacobson with an easier decision. Note: Kljestan is already looking to see who is around him before he receives the ball. Great anticipation.



Well, it’s off to the races with Kljestan as he pushes the ball forward with Sam on the right wing, Bradley Wright-Phillips (not seen) up front and Mike Grella (13) at the left wing. The Red Bulls also have Felipe as a possible midfield attacker. Jacobson is seen peaking at Wright-Phillips. He is currently only able to mark Felipe and (I’m assuming) he’s hoping Grabavoy can catch up to Kljestan. Note: RJ Allen and David Villa are still pointing



Grabavoy does not have the speed to catch up to Kljestan but credit for trying, though he should not have been out of position to begin with. The plays begins to unfold here. RJ Allen starts to sense the pressure and then drifts towards Kljestan to slow him down but is smart enough to know that once he steps up Kljestan will pass the ball to Sam. Note: Villa still pointing



Here RJ Allen is seen stepping up to Kljestan with Grabavoy closing in.



Kljestan then passes the ball off to Sam and RJ Allen now has to press the turbo button to catch up and pressure Sam. Enter Jason Hernandez (21) into the photo. Chris Wingert (17) is currently marking nobody, he doesn’t have to at this point but is also seen looking back to see where his players are.



Sam receives the ball. Jason Hernandez (21) is now giving his back to Wright-Phillips but Josh Williams (13) is also there to apply some help. Note: Mike Grella is left unmarked at the moment. Jacobson currently is pacing along with Kljestan and Felipe is also on his back side.



Similar screen shot as the prior slide but note that Wright-Phillips actually moves closer to Hernandez and now with Grella sneaking in closer Williams has to keep an eye on him and Wright-Phillips. No Bueno.



Sam is now confronted by Allen and starts to shake him off. Wright-Phillips also tries to out maneuver Hernandez. Grella now is getting into the box with ease.



Sam stops and cuts to his left (our right). Wright-Phillips also finds some space in between Hernandez and Williams. Grella is alone in the box and at this point (from my opinion) Williams (13) now is in a spot where if Grella receives the pass he’ll just have to be reactive instead of proactive. Note: Grabavoy is in no mans land. Alvarez is the only midfielder coming back to defend.



Sam pumps fakes a shot and is about to move to the end line for a final cross. Wright-Phillips (99) is comfy in between both NYCFC defenders and did I mention Grella is by himself? Wingert now is marking Kljestan. Question: What is Grabavoy doing? The least he could do is help RJ Allen if Sam decides to dribble the ball into the middle of the box.



Sam makes his final move to attempt the cross. Wingert allows Kljestan to pass him and with Hernandez moving up front of the box it leaves Williams (13) marking two men.



Sam (how many times am I going to say this guys name?) takes his final steps and here is where I do not understand why Hernandez decides to leave his area. If Kljestan somehow receives the pass Hernandez would of been there to contest any shot. Also doesn’t Hernandez remember Wright-Phillips was near him? By Hernandez leaving his spot he totally screws up Williams. Though at this point I can put some blame on Williams for not covering Hernandez’s back as well. Note: I bet Villa is still pointing



Now here we have Hernandez closest to Kljestan and so is Wingert. Wingert did lose defensive coverage on Kljestan but (IMO) not to the effect that Hernandez needed to help. Pablo is covering Felipe and both our defensive midfielders (Jacobson and Grabavoy) are not doing much. Williams still marking two Red Bulls.



Finally Sam gets off his pass (too many screen shots perhaps) and you know what happens from here on out. Williams seems to decide to stick with covering Grella, bad choice….



The ball is floated over to Wright-Phillips…



Who easily taps it in.

Whether the ball went out of bounds or not is not the question. The refs made bad calls on both sides of the pitch. The point I’m trying to bring up is why did Hernandez feel the need to release off his positioning leaving the 2014 MLS Golden Boot winner alone? Was there communication to Wingert (hand pointing or gestures) to tell him to mark Wright-Phillips instead? I mean, if he did I’m pretty sure he would of seen Grella coming down unmarked as well. The goal quickly set the momentum in the Red Bulls favor and is a good example of our defensive line not communicating during man-on-man coverage.

What’s your opinion? Let me know via Twitter @TheAndresSoto

I truly hope that our defense steps up and I know there have been injuries and there has not been a consistent lineup. But if I could break down a play this simple imagine what other teams are going to try to do with us! I’ll be at the game on Friday cheering on NYCFC and hope you are too!

If you’d like to hear the entire game recap against the Red Bulls be sure to listen to Episode S1E17 of the NYCFC Fan Podcast.

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