Building preseason knowledge: New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake

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TUCSON, Ariz. – A ridiculously quick 2-0 lead – “Quick” as in three minutes! – may not have been surprising considering the starting lineups in Wednesday’s second contest in the Desert Diamond Cup.

Real Salt Lake’s B team was up against Thierry Henry and the rest of the Red Bulls top choices, after all. But how about this for a preseason kick in the head: it was the reservists from RSL who took that jaw-dropping early margin.

By the end the Red Bulls had made up, controlling the game as you would expect after those early wobbles and seeing out a 2-2 draw. But who cares about results? Here is what we can take away from Wednesday’s match in the surprising cold desert:

  • Jason Kreis wants to begin building the team’s weekly routine. Hence the choice to roll out a second-choice lineup. Saturday’s contest against Seattle will see the first-teamers start.
  • Red Bulls manager Mike Petke (pictured) wants to play in a 4-2-3-1 this year. New York’s starting lineup looked like this: Santiago Castano. Brandon Barklage, Markus Holgersson, Jamison Olave, Connor Lade, Dax McCarty, Juninho; Lloyd Sam, Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry; Fabian Espindola.
  • Thierry Henry played alongside the left, which was interesting to watch. He was more or less having his way against RSL young defense; things will surely be harder when the real shin-kicking starts. Still, having Henry operate in space, more or less as a left-sided playmaker has something interesting about it. It looked just a little like his old Arsenal days, when the fab Frenchman tended to drift left in Arsene Wenger’s alignment.
  • Petke has one conundrum, it seems: Where to play Juninho, the team’s veteran (let’s call him veteran-plus) Brazilian midfielder. He was next to Dax McCarty on Wednesday and paled him comparison to his ginger central midfield mate. While McCarty was his usual busy self, winning balls, linking the play, always involved, etc., Juninho was rarely involved. At all.
  • Clearly, a 38-year-old midfielder doesn’t want to waste too much energy in a preseason exhibition. Still, Juninho’s ability to cover ground and willingness to tackle and otherwise be involved seemed alarmingly sluggish.
  • Cahill played behind Fabian Espindola in the 4-2-3-1. I’ll know more when I talk to Petke today or tomorrow at a training, but it looks like the formation gives RBNY’s new manager a lot of flexibility. Espindola could play wider (he tended to drift wide in his RSL years anyway). Tim Cahill can play closer to goal. Henry is smart enough to play any of the positions. Which leaves Juninho …
  • More match details are here from the Red Bulls side.
  • Rich Balchan, formerly of Columbus and recently released from Chicago, is now in RSL camp. Balchan had some good matches in Columbus; not sure what the issue is, but the 24-year-old Indiana University man always seemed to have potential.
  • Know how you can tell it’s preseason? Kreis, usually impeccably dressed along the sideline, was in jeans and an RSL jacket. I had to look twice to make sure it was him.
  • As for the two early goals? Considering the Red Bulls top two goalkeepers (Luis Robles and Ryan Meara) were unavailable, it’s hard to be too concerned. The first goal, just seconds into the match, could possibly be linked to information being provided to Conor Lade on a back pass gone wrong.

Petkovic: Time to “take Switzerland seriously” after Brazil draw

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While much of the talk about Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Brazil and Switzerland will focus on the former, the Swiss would like their share of credit for frustrating — and matching — one of a handful of favorites to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic is chief among those who believe it’s time those on the outside “start taking notice of us and taking us seriously.” As for the insinuations that his side roughed up Neymar, who suffered 10 of the 19 fouls committed by Switzerland, most of them were “very clean” — quotes from the BBC:

“Sometimes if there is a lack of recognition that is a pity because we have played very well. We showed and demonstrated that this team always believes in itself and can achieve results.

“Most of the duels (with Neymar) were won in a very clean way. It was one of the key ingredients to neutralize Neymar.”

“I’m very proud and pleased with the discipline with the way we played. We worked collectively and cohesively.”

“When we are able to play forward and press higher up we were able to do it well and it is an excellent starting position for the rest of our group matches.

“We had real difficulties in the first 40 minutes, I said ‘let’s remain calm, focused and believe in ourselves, push up higher up the pitch and create opportunities to score.'”

Having secured a point in far and away their toughest group game, Switzerland now have eminently winnable games against Serbia (Friday) and Costa Rica (Wednesday, June 27) remaining. Four points from those two games would just about guarantee progression to the knockout rounds.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 2

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Layla Anna-Lee has a new show and, well, it’s unbiased. At least occasionally…

In the second episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, Layla Anna-Lee looks at the best moments from the first set of matches in the 2018 World Cup.

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There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.

Brazil waste Coutinho’s stunner, draw Switzerland in opener

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Brazil started brilliantly and raced out to an early lead, but the five-time World Cup winners — and one of a handful of favorites in 2018 — disappointed in the end as they settled for a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the two sides’ Group E opener.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring after 20 minutes, turning home a stunning strike from distance, off the inside of the post, to settle any early nerves and give Tite’s Selecao a 1-0 lead (WATCH HERE).

It wasn’t Brazil’s first golden scoring chance of the game, though, as Coutinho and Neymar combined down the left wing to send the latter into space inside the penalty area. Neymar played a first-time cross into the six-yard box, but Paulinho‘s scuffed effort from close range was tipped around the post by Yann Sommer.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

A bit of complacency and real lack of urgency washed over Brazil as soon as they went ahead, affording Switzerland every opportunity to get back in the game.

Vladimir Petkovic’s side needed just five second-half minutes to draw level, thanks to some shoddy set-piece defending by Brazil. Steven Zuber took up a spot at the near post, virtually unmarked inside the six-yard box, and headed past Alisson.

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The game’s most controversial moment came just after the 70-minute mark, when Gabriel Jesus was bear-hugged inside the penalty area. Wrapped up from behind, the Manchester City forward was blatantly prevented from getting to the ball after a quick passage of smooth build-up, but referee Cesar Arturo Ramos Palazuelos was unmoved and no video review was enacted.

By the full-time whistle, Brazil had piled up 21 shots (just four on target) compared to just six from Switzerland (two). Despite on-target efforts from Neymar and Renato Augusto inside the game’s final five minutes, a winner wasn’t on the cards and the sides were forced to split the points.

Up next for Brazil is a clash with Costa Rica on Friday, while Switzerland will face Serbia the same day. The Serbs topped the Costa Ricans in Sunday’s first game, putting them top of the group after after the first of three rounds in Group E.

Video: Coutinho’s curler has Brazil flying early

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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It took 20 minutes for the Selecao to get on the board, but Brazil looks every bit as good as advertised.

Tite’s side struck nearly halfway through the opening stanza when Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho curled his shot from distance off the inside of the post against Switzerland.

The Brazilians came close on several occasions prior to Coutinho’s opener, but the 26-year-old made good on the misses with his first career World Cup tally.