New York Red Bulls struggling to find consistency

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

Consistency; it is a concept New York Red Bull boss Mike Petke hammers home to his side each and every week.

Nevertheless, they have failed to find it all season long.

“It’s a tale of two halves,” Petke said after a 2-0 loss against Toronto FC. “It’s the same thing the last couple of weeks. First half is flat, second half is strong.

“That’s the way it is.”

‘The way it is’ may be starting to chip away at the Red Bulls’ season.

New York have shown a disturbing trend for most of the 2014 campaign, either playing from behind or suffering defensive lapses that sink their strongest efforts. In eight of 12 matches, the Red Bulls fell behind to their opponent. In each of those encounters, they have failed to secure victory.

Of the four matches where they took the lead first, the team has gone 3-0-1.

Saturday at BMO Field, New York not only gave up the early goal, but also suffered a terrible defensive lapse, serving as a microcosm of the team’s issues this year.

“Once again, we concede an early goal. We lost the ball and conceded a counter attack away from home,” Thierry Henry explains. “Jermaine Defoe took his finish very well, but after that, I felt we controlled the game. We had a lot of the ball but it just didn’t go our way and again [they score] on the counter attack at the end.”

While very little could have been done to prevent Defoe’s opening blast, one would be remiss to overlook the terrible midfield giveaway that allowed the speedy English veteran to counter and power his way to the Red Bulls’ final third. While very late in the game, Luke Moore’s goal off of a defensive miscommunication falls in line with New York’s propensity for mental lapses as well.

This combination has created a team as streaky as their 3-4-5 record would indicate. More times than not, New York responds with vibrant play to keep themselves in matches. That, Petke says, is how any team would respond in such a situation.

Getting into that hole, however, is what New York is struggling to avoid. Whether it’s an early goal or an ill-timed foul, the Red Bulls can’t seem to get out of their own way.

Like Petke, Henry sums up their problems in much the same way: “That’s the way it is.”

While the team continues to respond to these problems in positive ways, ‘the way it is’ is quickly catching up to them. Unless they find a stronger start to matches, New York will continue falling in a hole all season, and that will be a detriment to their trophy aspirations.

“It seems like when we get our backs against the wall, we come out and play and play a little bit better,” midfielder Dax McCarty observes. “We don’t understand why we come out and start so poorly and when you are on the road, the last thing you want to do is concede an early goal and give the home team confidence.”