I've been looking for a few ways to try to explain how much the Red Bulls have changed under Chris Armas. And before I dive in too hard here, let me just start this segment with the understanding that I still think RBNY are very good under their new manager. Following this win they're now 8-3-3 with a +5 goal differential in Armas's 14 games in charge, which is a good look no matter how you slice it.
I'd argue, though, that it's not as good as what RBNY were during the first 16 games of the season, in which they went 10-4-2 and were +18. I finally found a number I think shines a light on why.
It is the "duel," an Opta stat that's exactly what you think it is. Two players go for the ball, and who comes away with it?
RBNY through the first 16 games of the season were elite at winning duels, and off-the-charts in terms of engaging in them. They challenged for more balls in more spots and with more energy than any team I've ever seen in this league, and pretty clearly defined themselves by winning those duels.
Five of RBNY's bottom six games in terms of total duels this season have come under Armas
Seven of RBNY's bottom 11 games in terms of total duels won this season have come under Armas
Ten of RBNY's bottom 15 games in terms of duel success rate have come under Armas
They still compete for and win a lot of balls, and as they showed against Toronto FC in a 2-0 win (a game in which they had their fewest duels of the season, and tied for their fewest duels won), there's more than one way to skin a cat.
I'm just not sure that what they're doing now is the most effective way. RBNY are not yet as good at passing the ball as they were at winning it.
It'll be interesting to see if they reclaim their identity next week against Atlanta United in a must-win if they want to grab their third Supporters' Shield in six seasons.
I don't get it. Armas has been with the team since 2015, why do we look so different? Is it intentional? Flexing new techniques for the playoffs and we really still knew how to press still this whole time?
TBH, overstatement has always been the weakness of the sports writer and sports fan. It has just been amplified by the internet and social media.
No player or team seems to ever have a bad play or an off day. It is The Worst Ever! This seems to be the only way to get attention. Fire The Coach or Trade The Player seem to be the only solutions.
The thought that a great player can score a goal, get a hit or make a basket appears impossible to the die-hard fan. The idea that a great player might miss a chance is equally inconceivable.
Someone Has Failed and Must Be Punished!
Prior to the internet, these thoughts had a brief shelf life. Many were unexpressed, or when expressed, it was only to a small audience, usually from a bar stool. The outbursts were quickly forgotten, or weakly acknowledged with a nod of the head. Now, they are published for all to see, apparently for all time.
Some Are Outraged! How Dare You Say That! You Suck!
Such is the current level of discourse.