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My Two Cents

My Two Cents

November 11, 2013
The Red Bullsí Analyst on relapse

Chris Brandon Whitaker writes The Red Bullsí Analyst column monthly, providing ďAnalysis for a team & therapy for fans.Ē

By Chris Brandon Whitaker
Special to

For this monthís session, the Red Bullsí Analyst will process the issue of relapse regarding the teamís recent elimination from the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Presenting concern:

Dropping a 1-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo, the Red Bulls find themselves once again knocked out in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs. Although seeded as the top team in the East, they failed to beat the lowest seed in either game of the home-and-away series. Everyone from faithful supporter to casual observer is perplexed about how this could have happened again.

Client history:

The Red Bulls swept the Dynamo in all three regular season games, crushing their opponent by an aggregate score of 9-1. Many assumed New York would move past them onto the Eastern Conference final without much trouble. However, a deeper probe into their past would caution against such optimism. While a perennial playoff team, the Red Bulls have lost in the first round of the playoffs a stunning 12 times out of 14 attempts over 18 season.

Mitigating factor: regular-season champions

Any statistician crunching those numbers would have predicted a high likelihood of another loss in the first round. Unfortunately, many people (including the players) were convinced that this year would be an outlier, because the Red Bulls won the Supporters Shield for best regular season record. How could such a good team not advance in the playoffs?

Mental health issue: relapse

A relapse occurs when a person is affected again by a disorder that has affected them in the past. Just as alcoholics and depressives only too often fall back into bouts of drinking and depression after periods of relative health, the Red Bulls have fallen back into their familiar pattern of playoff failure after an unusually healthy regular season.

Therapeutic intervention: relapse prevention

In many ways, itís the same old story about a talented New York roster failing to reach its potential. How can the team write a new narrative for the future? Here are some suggestions to help them avoid another relapse next year:

1. Avoid tempting situations: Rather than make another futile attempt to win in the playoffs in 2014, the Red Bulls should instead concentrate their energies on their most recent success: a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League thanks to this yearís Supporters Shield.

2. Develop a positive support network: The players need to surround themselves with positive people who do not have fatalistic or negative mentalities (Thierry and Henry to name a few.) Head coach Mike Petke and team warrior Tim Cahill must become the leaders of a supportive buddy system.

3. Create a healthy schedule: It will be hard to be competitive in a 2014 schedule that will include regular season, Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup and Champions League games. Trying to succeed in all three competitions will likely lead to a relapse into failure all around. They should save their strongest lineups for the Champions League schedule instead.

4. Avoid complacency: While winning the Supporters Shield is a big victory, the team must watch out for a drop-off in their motivation next year. Being crowned the best regular season club did not prevent a relapse in this yearís playoffs, and quite honestly, the team isnít as good as the trophy might suggest.

5. Donít view relapse as a failure: Seeing the elimination in the playoffs again as a relapse rather than as another choking failure will help the team overcome this pitfall in the future. Changing the culture of a dysfunctional organization takes time, and setbacks are part of the process of change. Putting a Supporters Shield into the clubís previously empty trophy case is an undeniable success.

For a city with more psychotherapists than bartenders and a team with more issues than a magazine stand, the Red Bullsí Analyst offers therapeutic counsel rather than a cure.

"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
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