The face of the New York Red Bulls changed over the offseason with the departures of Thierry Henry, Jamison Olave, Tim Cahill and coach Mike Petke.
But while an era may have ended, the club’s winning didn’t. The Red Bulls will arrive at CenturyLink Field on Sunday with a 4-2-5 record that sent them into the weekend in third place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.
“Their season started under a little bit of an air of intrigue with the things that changed,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “But (coach) Jesse Marsch has done a good job with the team. They’ve sort of gone maybe a slightly different direction.”
Marsch treated the departures of Henry, Olave and Cahill not so much as losses as an opportunity for change.
“Their (designated players) were getting a little bit older, in Henry and Cahill,” Schmid said. “They were still quality players, but that dictated that you had to play a little different style. So Jesse without them has been able to change the style of the team. They’re much more of an aggressive team, defensively much more of a pressuring team now as well.”
Obviously, not everything changed. Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips returns after winning the MLS Golden Boot last season with 27 goals — including three in a 4-1 win against the Sounders.
“He’s very good at toeing that offside line,” Seattle central defense Chad Marshall said. “That’s something we’re going to have to watch and make sure we’re not playing too high of a line, because he is someone who has good speed too. If you give him that half-chance, he’s going to finish it. … It’s about just keeping your head on a swivel and knowing where they are at all times, and trying to get one or two guys around him.”
New-look New York got off to a fast start, and seven weeks into the season was the last unbeaten team in the league at 3-0-4. However, they are 1-2-1 since then and have been shut out in their last two matches.
“They got shut out but they created chances in those games, so I’m sure their mentality is, ‘If we continue to create chances we’ll get eventually goals from it,’” Schmid said. “So I’m sure that’s going to be their approach as they come into this game.”
In Seattle the Red Bulls will face the top defensive team in MLS, as the Sounders have surrendered a league-low nine goals. Six of those came in just two games, meaning the Sounders have allowed a total of three goals over their other 10 games. Seattle has seven shutouts overall, and three in a row. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei went into the weekend leading in goals-against average, saves, wins and saves percentage.
“(The Red Bulls) are having a downside right now,” Seattle rookie midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “The last couple of weeks they haven’t been doing too hot. But they started really well at the beginning of the season, so we have to be really prepared for them. They have a very good attack. We just have to be aware of Bradley Wright Phillips.”