Red Bulls Second Half Follies Becoming Systemic

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

The New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 elimination from US Open Cup play at the hands of the Philadelphia Union only continued the team’s systemic woes surrendering second half goals.

Despite taking the lead in each of their last three games, New York has been unable to win any of them as the frustration continues to mount.

“It was a case of mentality and not being up for the challenge in the second half and thinking that because the first half was totally on our terms that the second half was going to be easy,” said head coach Jesse Marsch after last night’s game. “I tried to inform our team that in the second half Philly was going to pick it up, that they had to, that they were going to get laid into by their coach because they got their butts whooped in the first half and then they came out and whooped our butts in the second half.”

In many ways, this loss is another example of the league catching up to New York. The high pressing style which saw them dominate the league in 2015 has shown signs of frailty, especially on the defensive end of the ball. When the team can’t fire in that second goal, they have proven to be vulnerable late in the game.

Head coach Jim Curtin understood that and motivated his team to press on.

“It was not us in the first half,” said Curtin after the game. “If you go back to the first half, I think maybe Fabinho, maybe you could say Yaro checked a positive box. The rest of the guys, it wasn’t them and to all of their credit in the second half they played as a team, they fought as a team.”

To make matters even worse, it was an old foe that burned New York the most. Former DC United midfielder Chris Pontius became the hero, or villain — depending on which side you were on.

“I think the big thing for us was starting to pick up second balls in the second half,” said Pontius about the team’s performance late in the game. “I just think a little bit more fight in the second half. Guys tucking in and helping out defensively started creating offense for us.”

New York is in a pivotal stretch of games. They currently lead the Eastern Conference with eight losses and despite their third place standing, could see a deep fall should their second half trends not cease. This weekend’s game against NYCFC is an extra-treacherous affair with New York City entering on a high note, riding two straight wins into Yankee Stadium. With the club showing streaky form this season, it will be on Jesse Marsch to find the right formula to one again take the Red Bulls through this storm.