Facing Adversity, Red Bulls Rediscover Chip On Their Shoulder

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RUSS McKENZIE

Harrison, NJ – Sometimes a gauntlet needs to be thrown before adversity can be overcome.

Once again, the Red Bulls found themselves down a goal at the half against the Houston Dynamo this weekend, after largely shooting themselves in the proverbial foot. To make matters worse, freshly activated Gonzalo Veron seemed to be the missing cog in New York’s offensive machine, but he got an early shower after an apparent hamstring injury. New centerback Gideon Baah had a tearful exit from the match as he also came up with a bum hamstring. Rounding out the damage was Ronald Zubar, who also suffered a hamstring issue.

In short, the Red Bulls looked all but doomed on Saturday night. However, after dropping two uncharacteristic defeats and facing tremendous adversity against the Houston Dynamo, it fell to head coach Jesse Marsch to challenge his players.

“When we came in at halftime Jesse was very good with his words,” goalkeeper Luis Robles told EoS after the match.”(He challenged) us to show that we are the same team that is capable of achieving the goals we set out at the beginning of the season.”

If one characteristic of Marsch’s Red Bulls is most prevalent, it is their ability to achieve great things in the face of great adversity. In fact, it defined the entire 2015 season. However, the “why not us?” mentality that drove them last year seemed to be missing in the first two matches.

While tactics and talent only get you so far, to hear Marsch tell it, he simply reminded his troops of what they already knew.

“Well, again, so much of the talk about our team winds up being about and some of it comes from me too, it’s about the high-press system and the tactics and how we do things. I’ve always said that’s only a piece of the puzzle,” Marsch continued. “But what I think makes us us is a real strong mentality and commitment for each other and commitment to play for each other and then doing it at big moments.”

Robles echoed his coach’s sentiment. “You don’t want to reference this precedent we created last year, but the one thing that allowed us to be successful was the fight – the never say die mentality. With (Marsch) challenging us at halftime, I felt like we rose to the occasion.”

“Going back to that that fighting spirit, it’s necessary not only to maintain that, but (build on it),” Robles continued. “For the next 31 games, it’s not always going to come down to plays better tactically, who has more quality on the field – it’s (going to come down to) who’s willing to fight. It’s who’s willing to commit to winning those second balls and tackles. If we play like that we can position ourselves as champions.”

That fight is something Marsch has been preaching since taking the reins of this club. It’s the foundation of what his coaching style has been built upon. Seeing how his troops responded seemed to reaffirm the club’s will to win.

“I believe this, that tonight will be a reminder of that because above everything else, in the second half, you can throw everything else out the window. It wasn’t even like a soccer game; it was like a brawl. It was who is going to survive? Who is going to emerge? In the end, I’m proud of our guys for in that moment stepping up.”