Analysis / USL

Monday’s night’s player development lessons

Photo courtesy of MLS

The first leg of the MLS eastern conference semi-final, played Monday night between Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls in north Jersey, has some lessons for Union fans interested in player development.

Consider the Red Bulls’ game day 18. The seven individuals mentioned below are 39% of the playoff game-day roster.

In Monday night’s starting 3-5-2, the north Jersey-ites had three rookies who had been integral to the organization’s minor league “double” winner last year.

  • Tyler Adams started as the right outside channel full back/flank midfielder. Fox Sport 1 commentator and USMNT U-19 head coach Brad Freidel called him the right back. Adams played the full match.
  • Next to him in the lineup chart as displayed on the MLS match center page under lineups was central channel midfielder Sean Davis, for whom Gonzalo Veron subbed on midway through the second half.
  • In the middle of the center back trio was Aaron Long who also went 90+ minutes. Friedel was quite complementary to Long’s play against Toronto’s attacking tandem of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, particularly noting his pace.

Friedel has coached Adams with the national U-19s and knows him the best of the three, which tempers his effusiveness, but the former U. S. international goalkeeper is correct that the young man played very well.

On Red Bulls’ bench were four others promoted from last year’s USL champions: Vince Bezecourt, who came on at number 10 when Red Bulls switched their shape to a 4-2-3-1 for the last 10 minutes, Derrick Etienne and Alex Muyl, midfielders, and Ryan Meara the back-up keeper.

What does it mean for Union fans?

1 — While Jesse Marsch may not be Philadelphia Union fans’ best-loved opposing coach, he must be credited for fully investing his organization in its player development philosophy.

2 — Also, such fans – regionally and nationally legendary for their impatience – need to recall that Red Bulls’ Academy has been operating at least 5 years longer than has Philadelphia’s. Both Dilly Duka and Juan Agudelo played in its teams in 2007, 10 years ago.

3 — An additional message of Monday night’s Red Bulls roster is that Bethlehem head coach Brendan Burke’s intent to study north Jersey practices is shrewd. Several times during 2016 Burke mentioned them as a source of ideas for improving his project.

A comment or two this season suggests he continues to notice how they do things. When asked about how coach John Wolyniec had turned around a mediocre start to his season, Burke’s response was that he had done nothing different, that he had “stuck to the script.”

An important lesson from Toronto

“Difference-makers” win games.  Sebastian Giovinco’s winning free kick –see featured image above — against the run of play in the second half sent Toronto home for the second leg of the tie in a commanding position. They are up a goal and hold two away goals in case they need that tie-breaker.


  1. This makes me mad. That we couldn’t see more of Jones or Najem in our worthless final two months says alot about Curtin.

    • Agree. Red Bull is the team the Union want to be. And even that, it’s worth noting only gets you a sniff at the playoffs. They’ll be swiftly dispatched by Toronto. But their academy has them in better shape year to year than the Union.

    • Evil grin!
      But you could’ve!
      NE Extension to Quakertown exit, turn left off 663 at Mill Hill Road, left onto Old Bethlehem Pike at the T. Follow it through Coopersburg to 309. Cross 309 at the double light and it becomes 378.
      Turn right off 378 onto Saucon Valley Road. Turn left on Bingen Road at the T, and follow it through the light to the Lehigh Athletic complex.
      It’s exactly the same as going to watch the Eagles back when training camp was at Lehigh.

  2. Wow I didn’t realize the Pink Cows had such smarter players than the Union. I mean they were able to switch from a 3-5-2 to a 4-2-3-1. They were even able to do it with players from Pink Cows 2. Holy shit they must be MENSA members to be able to do that. Any more Bullshit you want put out there Ernie? Or are you done acting like Union fans are morons?

    • Fwiw Jesse Marsch is miles ahead of where Jim Curtin needs to be as a coach, and although I HATE the Red Bulls he was available when the team removed the interim tag from Curtin in the winter of 2014. He could’ve been the Union’s coach. And that has nothing to do with Jim Curtin or whether he was qualified or not, just speaking to how good Marsch is, even though I HATE the Red Bulls.

      • Not doubting Marsch’s quality or lack there of from Curtin. I was referring to Stewart’s claim that it’s too hard for players to learn different formations. Which is not directed towards the coach. Just the players. Marsch > Curtin any day. And I think Marsch is a cry baby.

      • Red Bulls play the 4-2-3-1 with Red Bulls 2, and did so with the first team the last few seasons.
        It was like putting on an old shoe.

      • Tim don’t bring facts and rationality into this, you ruin the fun. 😉 But they did switch formations and nobody’s head exploded. Also if Stewart believes his other claim that formations aren’t important, he can’t have it both ways IMO.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Yeah but he probably cost a few extra bucks and after all we had to waste that money elsewhere, so we couldn’t afford him

    • Well to be fair the Red Bulls scored 3 more goals then us this year and game up the same amount. We went 1-1-1 against them. I’d argue they have a much more talented team than the Union. If Marsch is such a great coach, where are the results?

      • I’m not saying Marsch is great, just better than Curtin. Which in and of itself doesn’t say much. They also got rid of Dax and had an academy kid take his place while switching formations from previous seasons. BWP didn’t have as great a season as years past (result of Dax leaving?). I don’t have all the answers, but if you can’t admit Marsch is better than Curtin, I really don’t know what to say.

      • Yea no one said great, he’s just farther along than Curtin. Also he’s done well with player development. The Union are clearly a thorn in the Red Bulls side though, and they are perennial underachievers in any sort of knockout tournament (which NO ONE is complaining about). But in terms of performance he is a better manager overall right now – on Nov. 2, 2017 – than Jim Curtin is.

  3. One of the most interesting things in sports to me is the inability for some teams to recognize young talent. I get that the region a team is in can lack strong high school or club programs, but including the NHL & MLB with MLS (which both have strong minor league ladders) the gap between teams that get it and teams that don’t is staggering. The Royals did it very well – like the Astros over the past few years – and it got them a World Series. Other teams (see: the Union) can’t seem to find or develop talent even if they open a high school specifically for that reason. Then’s there the USSF ….
    I understand that the coaches and philosophy make a difference, all that stuff and whatever, but it’s just curious to me that some teams can put rookies out there and excel, and they get better by playing, while other teams fail miserably and can’t seem to develop players. I mean if it’s not working, fix it right? Find someone that can make it work.

    • You do realize that the Royals and Astros league setup has nothing in common with the Union right. Those teams were HORRIBLE for years and are in a league that rewards you with tons of chances at young talent when you stink.

    • My point wasn’t a comparison of the two leagues it was to point out that some teams can figure out youth development and others can’t. Sure MLB is way different but the point is that those teams accumulated young talent and it paid off. As for the Union they have young talent but they can’t find the field, and most of the young talent has failed to develop. The Red Bulls, among some other MLS teams, have made the youth movement work for them and it has paid off.
      There are many reasons why this is the case, many people to blame, it’s just an observation. Another comparison: It seems to be working for the Sixers. The Knicks and Nets however, not so much.

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