By Tyler Trent
The Red Bulls' lineup before their match against Orlando City (Photo courtesy of New York Red Bulls)
What We Have Seen So Far
The New York Red Bulls are coming off a 3-0 loss to Orlando City. However, they had a long break, last playing on June 3rd. The New York Red Bulls have one of the best defensive records in MLS this season, with only 16 goals allowed. That tremendous defensive effort is negated by having the worst goal-scoring record in MLS this season.
The highly touted Dante Vanzeir has struggled when available and has been at the center of a racism incident that saw him suspended for six matches. Lewis Morgan has only made five appearances this season due to injury. Morgan provided a significant portion of the attacking threat for the Red Bulls last season. This duo was expected to provide the bulk of the attacking output for their team this season but currently only has one goal between them.
Out: Serge Ngoma, Omir Fernandez, Steven Sserwadda, Daniel Edelman
From MLSsoccer.com's Player Availability Report dated 6/15/23.
Player to Watch
Cristian Cásseres Jr. – Cásseres has been one of the Red Bulls' most consistent performers this season. Cásseres has done well for Red Bulls in the midfield with a rotating cast of midfield partners. Negating his influence will be key, as Red Bulls' attack has not provided much impact this season.
Andres Reyes – Charlotte FC are fortunate to see that Reyes picked up a red card in their last match against Orlando City. With Charlotte FC’s known weakness on set pieces, Reyes could have provided a significant concern for the Crown. With two goals on the season already and a key member of the strong Red Bulls defense, his absence might be as substantial as the players available in the match-up.
John Tolkin – Tolkin is one of the most significant components of providing power to the Red Bulls Attack. With four assists on the season so far and a player who has started every match for one of the best defenses in MLS, Tolkin would be the main man to watch. Charlotte fans will remember the antics of Tolkin from the previous matchup between the teams in Charlotte. However, Tolkin will not be with the team as he was called up to the United States National Team for the Gold Cup.
The Red Bulls' Starting XI
Red Bulls will likely use a similar lineup to their previous one against Orlando City. However, Reyes will be suspended, and we could see the return of Dante Vanzeir to the starting lineup.
The Red Bulls' lineup versus Orlando (Image from MLSsoccer.com)
The Red Bulls' passing network versus Orlando (Graphic found on MLSsoccer.com)
Tolkien (#47) will push high up the pitch and use his speed to attack while also being up to work back to flush out counterattacks.
New York Red Bulls' zones of control* this season (Graphic found on theanalyst.com)
The Red Bulls have shown very little control over their attacking half but have mostly been able to keep opponents without much control in their half, either. Charlotte could look to exploit the left side of the pitch as Reyes will be out, and the right side of the Red Bulls' defense has shown more weakness than the center or the left.
Outlook for 2023
The Red Bulls' defense has saved this season from being a complete disaster, but they are still lingering near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. If New York cannot get consistent production in the attack, defensive mistakes could eventually start to catch up with them, though.
While Charlotte FC's attack hasn't always been at its best this season, they should feel confident going into this matchup. However, don't expect this New York team to be a pushover, as they still have multiple class players within the lineup that can change the game with one chance.
*For the zones of control, blue symbolizes areas on the field where the Red Bulls has had at least 55% of total touches. Red represents areas where their opponents have had at least 55% of total touches.