Marsch: Toronto’s Success ‘Hard to Swallow’

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By ANTHONY J. MERCED

Red Bulls logoHARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls ended their three-game losing streak with in a 1-1 draw against Toronto on Friday night at Red Bull Arena. But Coach Jesse Marsch thinks his team may have lost a lot more.

The Red Bulls (5-6-2, 17 points) were once the team to beat in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. That label now belongs to Toronto (7-1-5, 26). New York is working on getting its season together while first-place Toronto extended its unbeaten run to seven games and opened a six-point bulge atop the conference.

“It’s a little bit hard to swallow,” Marsch said. “We’ve kinda been that team in the East the last couple of years and now you look at Toronto and they’re a good team. You have to give them credit. Now I think we can get better and better, become more of an elite team. But right now we’re fighting through certain things. The key is to keep confidence high and keep pushing every day to grow and get better.”

For one night at least, New York matched Toronto. The Red Bulls started in a 4-1-3-2 formation, which allowed Sacha Kljestan to roam the midfield, with Fredrik Gulbrandsen next to Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. The change was a success in the first half, leading to a Wright-Phillips’ goal in the 38th minute. Halftime substitutions and defensive lapses, however, opened the door for Toronto, which tied the game in the 70th minute on a goal by Benoît Cheyrou. He had replaced Drew Moor in the 61st and scored at the tail end of a free kick.

“If you really want to pinpoint one thing that has been a struggle for us this year it’s defensive set pieces,” Marsch said. “We’ve been so good at them the last two years and we’ve got to find a way to do better on all these situations. Ultimately there are many games that we’ve lost or the momentum has changed based on that. We’ve got to do better.”

Those defensive problems are in part because of injuries that have plagued New York throughout the season. First it was Gideon Baah who went down for the season early in the campaign, then Aurelien Collin who hasn’t played in nearly a month. Damien Perrinelle has tried to step in but has struggled at times — on Friday his found led to a second-half penalty kick for TFC. Jozy Altidore took the PK, but goalkeeper Luis Robles made a spectacular save to preserve the 1-1 scoreline.

For all the Red Bulls’ defensive ills, the offense has also struggled — New York has not scored more than a goal in five games. What’s worse is that they have been unable to unleash stronger efforts on net, a frustration that left the crowd at Red Bull Arena chanting, “shoot!” after Wright-Phillips passed up an open look on his left foot, cutting back to his right for a shot that was blocked.

“You can hear the crowd yelling, ‘shoot,’ ” Marsch said. “I felt like I was one of them, too. Not sure why we’re hesitating. You’d like to see Brad, when he creates some of these advantages, to just pick a spot. Not really quite sure why in the attacking part of the field we aren’t more decisive. Keep working on that. Keep encouraging them to go after the game. Guys put a lot into it.”