July 4, 2016
Red Bulls must find a way to get their mojo back soon or face a long, cold summer
By Michael Lewis
Felipe: "We got to be honest with ourselves and look at what we have to clean up and change this because the season is still long. It's still there but we need to get our effort back, we need to get our will back."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
When the Red Bulls endured their horrible 1-6 start to this Major League Soccer season, they did have a legitimate excuse.
In many ways they were hamstrung, literally and figuratively, by injuries, mostly to their defense.
Hamstring injuries to center backs Gideon Baah and Ronald Zubar in the 4-3 home victory over the Houston Dynamo March 19 started the Red Bulls on their downward spiral as they leaked goals at the most inopportune times.
They were unable to get back on track until the latter stages of May when they recorded a pair of victories, one over the struggling Chicago Fire at home and the other over New York City FC in that well-known 7-nil triumph.
New York seemed to get its mojo back as it slowly climbed up the Eastern Conference ladder.
But now the Red Bulls find themselves in another in another crisis, one that we may call a crisis of confidence as the only injured things are their pride and 7-9-2 record. They haven't won in four consecutive matches, which was most recently climaxed by their performance in the 2-0 loss to NYC FC at Yankee Stadium Sunday.
While observers, fans and media understood the Red Bulls' unique defensive deficiencies during the early part of the season, the team's inability to accrue many if any points in their past four matches has been alarming.
It has been a brutal 12 days for the New Jersey side:
On June 22, the Red Bulls allowed Real Salt Lake to score in the 88th minute in what turned into a 1-1 road draw.
On June 25, they let the Columbus Crew in the third minute of stoppage time to turn a 1-1 deadlock into a 2-1 defeat in Columbus, Ohio.
On Wednesday, June 29, the Red Bulls let a one-goal lead slip away early in the second half to the Philadelphia Union, which eliminated its rivals for the second year in a row behind a 2-1 fifth-round win in the Lamar Hunt/Open Cup.
And on Sunday, New York really never showed its potential as City had its way when it really counted, falling 2-0.
Yes, the Red Bulls have played three games in nine days and four over 12 days -- and there certainly is room for fatigue -- but their recent form appears to be more worrisome than what transpired in the opening weeks of the season.
Let midfielder Felipe, who many times has been spot on in his assessment of the team, put it the situation into proper perspective.
"Have to give credit to New York City they were better than us today and we got to be honest with ourselves and look at what we have to clean up and change this because the season is still long," he said. "It's still there but we need to get our effort back, we need to get our will back."
The Red Bulls are in the midst of a stretch in which they play nine games in 32 days through July 24. More or less, it comes down to playing a game, going through regeneration a day later and then preparation on the third day before playing again on the fourth. And on and on it will go.
Even after this stretch, the schedule will continue to be unforgiving, with an international friendly against Club America Wednesday and the addition of four CONCACAF Champions League matches in the midweek during August and September.
Before then, the Red Bulls need to regain their confidence and gain some points (and victories) in the table or this summer could become a lost one in a hurry.