Harrison, NJ – It’s been a rough start to the season for last year’s Supporter’s Shield winners, New York Red Bulls. They opened up the 2019 MLS campaign with a 1-1 draw vs. Columbus Crew. Then RBNY was outplayed by Santos Laguna across both legs of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, ousting them from the tournament. After a promising 4-1 victory over San Jose Earthquakes in Week 3, things looked as if Red Bulls had righted the ship. Then came Saturday night’s dreadful 1-0 loss to a mediocre Orlando City team.
New York began the game well, keeping Orlando City on the back foot for the first 10-15 minutes of the match. Then Orlando started to change the tempo a bit, mostly by fouling, which really frustrated the Red Bulls. “Orlando kept us from getting a rhythm, the sharpness, a real grasp on the game” said manager Chris Armas at the post-game press conference. “We thrive on making the game fast. Orlando tried to slow things down. You could see it. There were different instances and injuries that happened in the first half that disrupted our rhythm.”
Red Bulls center-back Tim Parker echoed his coach’s sentiment, saying “there was no fluidity to the game.” Parker continued, “It was really frustrating. I think it showed on the field and we had a little talk about it, but it’s one of those things that we kind of have to put behind us and push forward.”
That level of frustration was heightened in the 73rd minute after ex-Red Bulls player Sacha Kljestan got on the end of a Joao Moutinho cross into the box to take the lead. Dom Dwyer did well to chest down a long ball and sent it out wide to an overlapping Moutinho, who whipped a low cross into the box that skipped passed Parker and onto the feet of Kljestan for the score.
It seemed as if RBNY defenders either didn’t expect the cross to come in so fast, or there was a miscommunication between Parker and Amro Tarek – who got the start in place of Aaron Long, out on international duty with the USMNT. When asked how the goal came about, Parker explained that “Sometimes my first reaction is protecting the post. The minute it comes off his [Moutinho’s] foot, I could kind of see it come in behind me, but I just couldn’t get my momentum to go that way.”
After the match, Armas admitted that his team did not work hard enough to win 50/50 balls and should have gotten a result. “We feel like we left points out there for sure” said Armas. “On the night, we’re not too pleased with that performance at home.” When asked to elaborate on the perceived lack of effort, Armas said “It’s just a mentality sometimes, to really sniff a play out and think about where it’s going to go. Then getting an early read and just commit yourself physically, mentally with everything.” Also adding, “that’s an important piece of it and we thought we let ourselves down with that. That’s only one part of it for sure, but with us, it’s a big part. It shows that we’re connected and that structurally things are in place.”
Locker room leaders Luis Robles and Sean Davis agreed with their coaches assessment of the performance. “That was just really poor from us all together and it’s hard to even think of positives,” said the 34-year-old goalkeeper. Robles was very candid with reporters, saying “Taking a step back and looking at what we gave today. I think every person, if they’re being honest knows that wasn’t their best and that we can be better. At the end of the day, we know that’s not good enough and if we want to be a top team, especially at home, [the effort] has to be dramatically better.
Davis told reporters after the match, “It was just a poor performance from our team. We didn’t show up with the right mentality. We were out-competed and that falls on the players.” He went on to stress the importance of self-reflection, saying, “It’ll be nice to look at things on film because we have to take an honest look in the mirror and continue to get better, to progress and that’s going to be really important for the game next week.”
New York will face the Chicago Fire at SeakGeek Stadium on Saturday and cannot afford another hiccup if they want to defend their Supporter’s Shield title. The Fire have also struggled to find their form this season, going 0-2-1 while conceding 7 goals in just three matches.
When asked if he’s alarmed about the teams performance going into Chicago, Armas brushed off the notion, saying,
“Coming out of this game, there’s no real concerns. We know in different stretches this year we’ve played really well and we’ve had stretches where we haven’t played that great. Today, as a whole we couldn’t get a real grasp on it. So, as always, we’ll look real hard [at the film]. We’ll look at every little thing again and then get back to work.”
Armas is confident his team will put this loss in the rear view mirror, saying “We won’t harp on it. This is what we do for a living.” He acknowledged “Yeah, we want every game to go our way. But we understand that we can’t just put the jersey on, in our home building and think it’s just going to happen. We have to earn it every single time.”
“We know that we can be sharper, both the [coaching] staff and the players. We’ll come in Monday ready to work, with a humility, knowing we can get better. When you know that, the training reflects it and we’ll continue to hold each other accountable.” Armas ended things by proclaiming “We’ll be ready to fly next weekend in Chicago.