What Dynamo Moscow Can Learn From the New York Red Bulls
|New York's wings would look good on Dynamo.|
The New York Red Bulls may be out of the MLS playoffs, but there's a lot to be said about their regular season. Granted, luck wasn't always on their side, and yes, they did not make it to the penultimate playoff round, but Mike Petke did a splendid job during his first full season in charge. Aside from winning the Supporters' Shield - the team's first official silverware in its entire 18-year history - Petke accomplished something even more important. He brought a team together. But before we get into that, let's take a quick tour down a darker end of memory lane, to a side coached by Hans Backe. Surprisingly, there are quite a few parallels between Backe's approach and that of Dynamo Moscow manager Dan Petrescu. Both decided to make some radical changes to the squad - namely, getting rid of a large group of players and signing a band of big-name replacements, all in one go. Temporary bliss followed, as did criticisms directed at "stars" who were clearly under-performing. By the end of the Backe era, not only had great players like Juan Pablo Angel, Tim Ream and Rafa Marquez left the New York Red Bulls, but there were obscure signings, like Mehdi Ballouchy, which defy all logic to this day.
Enter Mike Petke, a former Red Bull player and assistant manager, whose youth and lack of extensive coaching experience may have caused many a fan (and seasoned journalist) to underestimate his potential impact. To say that he silenced his skeptics may be the understatement of the season. The Red Bulls' 2013 season ended with an Eastern Conference - and, more importantly, Supporters' Shield - win. RBNY scored the most goals, lost less games than all of the teams in both conferences combined (except for the Portland Timbers) and had an incredible performance on the road. The Red Bulls had acquired a successful home-grown manager who was able to connect to players with completely different backgrounds and bring them all together.
Pre- and post-Petke Red Bulls are two different teams entirely. Like pre- and post-90's Britney, only the other way around.
However, as they say, you can take a team to the playoffs, but you can't make it win. RBNY lost on aggregate to the Houston Dynamo, the lowest-seeded Eastern Conference team left in the playoffs. Failure to make use of a plethora of chances often maximizes those of the other team. If you don't score, you can bet quite heavily that your opponent will.
Like pre-Petke Red Bulls, the RPL's Dynamo Moscow seem to have it all - a collection of young and veteran players that have made names for themselves playing in the top leagues as well as for their national teams. Heck, they even have a manager whose playing career still has a special place in the hearts of Chelsea fans, who refer to him as "the ledge" while reminiscing about their club's good ol' days over a hot cup of tea. But back to Dynamo. They've got the manager. They've got the players chosen by the manager. But where's the actual team? Dynamo continue to under-perform, drawing or losing one game after another while gaining points only against currently weakened (Ural, Krylya, Tomsk) or otherwise unstable (CSKA) sides. It would all make sense if the results were a reflection of the prowess exhibited by their opponents. When Dynamo Moscow struggle against mid-table sides and lose to Amkar and First-Division Salyut, however, eyebrows are raised so high that even the most naive and hopeful supporters' hearts all echo the same reply when they consider who's to blame. They may even be united in their silent agreement of who may be the perfect man for the job. A man who, like Mike Petke, is a well-respected former player, and is currently coaching the ever-successful reserves. It would only do well for Dynamo Moscow to make like a Red Bull if they aspire to be champions.
It takes wings to reach the golden tree, but feathers aren't gonna grow themselves.
The trophy-winning Red Bulls don't have a former Chelsea man at the helm. They don't have as many big names on their squad as they did in the Backe era.
They have something far better.
They have a team.