Plenty of Blame to Go Around in Latest Red Bulls Loss

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RUSS McKENZIE

DC United had a plan coming into Friday’s match: key in on the midfield trio of Sacha Kljestan, Dax McCarty, and Felipe Martins.

It was an effective strategy that was fueled by the hate one would expect from a rivalry match.

“They’re a team that we hate and they hate us,” DC defender Sean Franklin said after the match. “We talked about how we can’t be giving up points at home and that we needed a statement game and I think tonight was the perfect night for it.”

With the return of Gonzalo Veron to the starting XI, head coach Jesse Marsch deployed his troops in the much anticipated 4-2-2-2 — a formation that excited many this preseason.

Like DC, the strategy was there for the Red Bulls to take on their longtime rivals.

However, the emotion wasn’t.

Instead of living up to the vigor and venom the Red Bulls spoke about coming into this match at RFK, Marsch’s troops simply came out flat. Practically from the opening whistle.

New York was on their heels off of two chances created by United. Instead of meeting that challenge, the only Red Bull player on the pitch at RFK Stadium interested in producing anything was the aforementioned Veron.

And he was subbed off early in the second half.

The lack of determination from the Red Bulls was apparent from the start. Forward Mike Grella may have put it best. “It was just an unprofessional performance by us,” he said. “I don’t think we kept our level of intensity that we had over the last few weeks. I don’t think we did that for whatever reason and it was a poor performance and a poor result.”

“No excuses for this entire group,” Grella continued. “No excuses for this entire group. We win together, lose together and have good performances and bad performances together, so there are no excuses. We were not right in any department tonight and the result was deserved.”

While the scoreline was telling, the statistics were actually typical Red Bulls. New York finished the game with the lion’s share of possession, matching DC’s 13 total shots, and 5 on target. While DC keeper Travis Worra made saves when called upon, this loss was not a story of a hot hand in net.

This loss was about mindset.

For what it’s worth, coach Marsch chalked the game up to poor preparation and concentration. For that, he shouldered the blame on the performance.

“I would say that I have to take a big load of responsibility,” he said. “We came into a rivalry game, one that we knew would require a team that was always up for the competition and for the night and we came up zero for eleven on that. So, you have to look at me and say for whatever reason I didn’t have enough urgency and preparation for this and didn’t make it clear to them exactly what this was going to require.

“We were so flat and that’s all on me.”

While the lack of motivation in a rivalry match with 20 years of history behind it may fall on the coach’s shoulders, what does not fall to Marsch needs to be laid at the feet of yet another permutation of a back four that has not seen much stability in 2016. This time, Chris Duvall, playing out of position for an injured Ronald Zubar, and Aurelien Collin were the featured centerback pairing, while Kemar Lawrence and Sal Zizzo took up their regular flanking positions.

Last season, Lawrence was a surprising bright spot for the Red Bulls, as veteran Roy Miller went down with injury early on. In 2015, Lawrence sported a 75% pass accuracy, and on average won 59% of his duels. He also was credited with a single defensive error all season long.

This season, Lawrence’s production and effectiveness have dropped.  He has only won a staggering 43% of his duels and has already been credited with two defensive errors.

Last night, he was only credited with three defensive actions and won 50% of his duels. Both first half DC goals were from crosses on his side of the field. And while Chris Duvall deserves some of the fault on those goals, one thing the Red Bulls will have to turn around is the startling trend of stopping rushes before they begin. Last night, it seemed apparent that Lawrence was not on point, and Marsch took him off the field after DC scored their second first half goal.

But blame can continue across the XI. Captain Dax McCarty was one of the most passionate voices in the lead up to this match. After a poor showing in the midfield, he offered an apology to Red Bulls supporters for the lack of passion in the match.

“The one thing you should expect from a rivalry game is to be up for the challenge, to win every physical battle, to know they will come out with energy at home coming off a poor performance,” he said. “Not only do we not match it, we don’t even show up. I’m really disappointed.”

“I have to look at myself first and take responsibility because it starts with me as a captain. I didn’t step on the field in the right way. It showed in how I played. I didn’t have the energy, physicality, the desire when I stepped on the field to lead by example and that is something a captain should always do. No excuses. DC out competed us and that’s why they won the game.”

Over the last year and change it can’t often be said that Marsch’s Red Bulls were outworked. However, in a match against this club’s biggest and oldest rivals, they did just that.

It’s easy to look back on the past and attempt to right the wrongs. However, McCarty recognized the only way to move forward is through victory. The Red Bulls have an opportunity to wipe away the failure at RFK on Friday night when they face the Chicago Fire at home on Wednesday.

“The only way to correct it is to step on the field and prove to our fans we care,” he said. “That we are ready to fight and scrap and claw to never let a performance like that happen again.”

Indeed.

  • george

    Can I just say, BWP has been awful! His touch has been heavy, his hold up play mediocre and his finishing atrocious. I don’t want to put all the blame on him as the defense has been pretty bad too. But BWP seems to have lost a step (he never had much of one anyway) and that coupled with mediocre technical ability, has really sunk this team.