Sam shows promise for Red Bulls in win over Revs

Lloyd Sam Red Bulls (Getty Images)

BY DAVE MARTINEZ

After trading away Dane Richards last season, then New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe quickly realized how dramatically his wing play suffered. He took a chance on signing Lloyd Sam to buffer the loss. While out of form and fitness, Backe believed the speedy, young English midfielder would fill the gap in what had become an impotent flank attack.

This year, rookie head coach Mike Petke faces a similar problem. While his midfield includes perhaps some of the best names on any roster in Major League Soccer (Tim Cahill, Juninho, Dax McCarty), the team’s lack of width has, at many times, made New York’s attack one dimensional and predictable.

On Saturday, Petke finally turned to Sam for some extended minutes during a crucial time in their match against the New England Revolution. While the visitors began to press, Sam played a big part in turning the tides and ultimately helping secure the team’s biggest victory of the season.

“We are the New York Red Bulls; we should be doing that at home,” Sam said after the match. “We shouldn’t be just getting through games. People should be scared to come here. It needs to be more like that.

And while measured in his response, he did feel he contributed to the turnaround. “I haven’t been on the pitch enough to say it was different before but it did felt good,” he said. “I feel like we’ve got capable players to get passes in and to have good, fluid attacks.

“Sometimes, not saying I’ve been missing, but sometimes there has been wide play missing, so I feel like I can fill that void.”

It’s no secret that Sam has been pushing for more playing time. It’s a topic that comes up with some frequency between himself and the coach. “There has been a lot of conversations we have had about how I’ve been feeling,” Sam said. “I want more time. He didn’t say exactly what he wanted to see.”

Petke did, however, pull Sam to the side before inserting him into the match to give him some words of encouragement. “He kind of said something along the lines of obviously he knows I want more time or whatever. Just show what you can do,” Sam revealed. “I was thinking ‘ya, I still want more time than this to show’ but I’ll take this. It was good to go out there.”

“I thought that this game and that moment suited Lloyd for what he brings,” Petke said after the match. “I think he was forced to play a bit more defensively than I was thinking he would have. When he came on, the game kind of shifted that direction pretty fast, but when he got the ball at his feet he did well.

“I thought he did well,” he continued. “I thought he took his chances. I think he got a little excited, you know, took maybe on one occasion when he beat the one guy and then took one too many touches, but that’s expected. And I think he was a good outlet for us.”

Sam did add width to the Red Bulls attack but was, as the coach delineated, a bit excitable on the ball. His nerves may have gotten the best of him on one particular scoring opportunity. Jonny Steele, who was having a banner night, found Sam in the box but the Englishman failed to connect on the ball. “I’m a bit annoyed with myself,” he said. “If I went 110% in I would have gotten it.”

Nevertheless, Sam hopes he made enough of an impression to garner more minutes.

“I’ve trained every session this season. I’ve been feeling good for a while. It’s just being on the pitch now,” he said. “All I can say is obviously I want more time on the pitch but I guess that’s a start so hopefully it continues.”

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19 Responses to Sam shows promise for Red Bulls in win over Revs

  1. ChiTown says:

    Wait a second, this guy has been sitting on the bench with that pace this entire time… and he wasn’t injured? Uh…

  2. Vic says:

    Yes. He came into camp out of shape. Petke decided to teach him a lesson by not playing him. It may have cost the Red Bulls some losses but at least Petke accomplished his point.

    • ChiTown says:

      What was his point?

      He intentionally cost the team points to prove a point to a player? If that was actually true he should be fired on the spot.

      His job is to win games. That’s it. Win.

      • TomG says:

        This is Lloyd Sam, Chitown. Lloyd Sam, not Gareth Bale. He is a borderline MLS player, not a superstar. You don’t win games by playing out of shape, borderline players who aren’t disciplined enough to play their role in the system. That’s a losing strategy. The only way he plays is if he’s in shape and playing within the system.

      • Dillon says:

        It is called planning for the future. Sometimes in sports and in life, sacrifices must be made that may be detrimental in the near term that will be beneficial in the long term. When Petke decided to bench Sam, he believed that creating a culture of discipline and hard work in the team would be beneficial to both Sam and the team.

        But maybe your way would work too. I am sure Sir Alex Ferguson got the top by letting his players do whatever they want and never benching anyone or instilling any discipline in his teams. That sounds like a great way to win.

        • ChiTown says:

          I can promise you Sir Alex never benched a player he thought was necessary to win–whatever the circumstances. He’s played players after huge scandals and during controversy.

          He cares about points. That’s it.

      • Boriuano says:

        bro u must be going through a rough time in ur life right now… everytime i read comments ur just always trying to say the opposite. Relax broski, love life, I love you bro.. maybe we should all say I love you to ChiTown

  3. Brain Guy says:

    Sam is old enough (28) to be turning promise into consistency and results. He may be just what RBNY need on the wing. Here’s hoping that whatever lesson Petke meant to teach him sinks in and he becomes a dangerous element in the attack.

    • Boriuano says:

      +1 I’m not going to lie, I thought Petke was taking a little too long putting Sam in this season but I think it may pay off. Especially now that Sam is so hungry to get on the field and make his case as to becoming a starter. RBNY had a rough start this season but Petke’s dedication on molding this team will def pay off

  4. The Squad says:

    Sam understands the need for home field dominance…

    Hopefully, the quality New York showed against NE will continue and build excitement for the team in the area.

    Henry finally got a little of what he’s been seeking. He seemed to be an important piece within the offense rather than the only piece.

  5. TomG says:

    This article should have been about Johnny Steele, IMO, who was the wing who had the real breakthrough performance for NYRB.

  6. Dan says:

    DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUH!!!!

    finally Petke shows a brain and plays him

  7. Danny M says:

    I felt Petke had a falling out with Sam but if he was truly out of shape and didn’t have chemistry with the squad then he would be a red flag. Building that team chemistry lays on management but that was on Bache.

    Sam is high on speed, aggression, ball control and dribbling. He is a seasoned vet that can help lead a team to a championship.

    Granted steele and Alexander are nice finds by Petke and both are much needed. Steele slowly started to impress me, especially against New England. Even Alexander finally got in to the action. I feel replacing Alexander with Sam in the starting line up will bolster the performance of the rest of the team.

    Sam is needed to close out gaps that are left open in the middle of the field and he can create space as well. Getting the ball to Henry so he isn’t playing with his thumbs is idle. Sam is the best option the Red Bulls have right now.

    Petke must help build this teams’ chemistry as fast as possible. A clear sign was against Sporting KC. The fluid ball movement between SKC gave them the advantage and they controlled the game.

  8. Dillon says:

    I am not sure Sam qualifies as “young” when he is 28 years old and has been playing professionally for a decade.

    • David JS says:

      Yes. I had to double check his age when I read that, just to make sure my recollection wasn’t off. Not to harp on it too hard, but I definitely wouldn’t qualify Sam as a young player at this point.

      • Danny M says:

        He was brought on by the red bulls last coach to replace Dane Richards. So subtract 5 years or so and your good.

  9. Dan in New York says:

    I’d continue bringing him on as a second half sub for a while since it’s been effective, with Sam able to use his speed to his advantage when the other team grows tired.

    • Boriuano says:

      Exactly. There’s no need to make a full adjustment, but just give him an entire half to play and see how things go from there.