Harrison, NJ (September 27th, 2015) – For the most part, the 2015 incarnation of the New York Red Bulls was one born of adversity. They began the season under a firestorm of controversy, and have spent every day since the home opener in March attempting to rebuild the rapport they had with their supporters. Winning, however, solves a variety of ills, and in a strange twist of fate the club got off to one of their best starts in franchise history.
You wouldn’t have known that on Friday night, as the very same club that has spent the last month in the midst of the Supporters Shield conversation became unhinged and dropped a brutal decision to Cyle Larin and Orlando City SC. “You have nights like this; we’re not immune to it. I feel strongly that we’re a good team but there’s going to be nights where everything seems to go against you. That’s what tonight was,” head coach Jesse Marsch told reporters after the match.
Before Friday, the Red Bulls had not lost at home in league play since June 20th, a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Vancouver Whitecaps. That match was less about what the Red Bulls did wrong as a group. In stark contrast, the loss to Orlando seemed deflating, as there were several things that contributed to Marsch’s lineup arguably being laughed off the field. Even in defeat, however, Marsch stayed on message. Touting the club’s resiliency over the course of this season, Marsch remained resolute – “I promise you this: this team won’t be phased by this. It’s a hard one to take, it’s a kick in the teeth, but we will find a way to regroup and we’ll be ready to go again next weekend.”
Whereas the Red Bulls fell to a desperate Orlando club, it was how it happened that is important. Marsch has deployed the same high line in almost every match this season. His players know to press high and generally have the wheels to get back to defend. Tonight, hhowever, the same type of goal was scored three times, probably a credit to Adrian Heath doing his homework coming in. It was the result of the high line playing a bit too high, and each time Damian Perrinelle, specifically, was beaten handily – twice by Canadian national Cyle Larin, who secured his place in MLS history by breaking the rookie goal scoring record with a hat trick. Lloyd Sam said it best in post game, “It just seemed like the same goal over and over so we’re going to have to watch it and see what happened, but it appeared they got us on the counter over and over again.”
The answer was apparent to everyone who watched. The high line was especially high against Orlando, and the Red Bulls back line, who has been extraordinarily well organized all season, was not. The question remains – is this an aberration, or is this the start of a new unwelcome trend? Considering defender Matt Miazga, arguably one of the top three center backs in the league, will be absent for the next four matches, Marsch and his technical staff may not have the opportunity to figure that out in a live game situation until the MLS Cup Playoffs begin. Miazga will miss the October 3rd match because of the red card he received towards the end of the Orlando match, and then miss the next three matches due to international duty. He will be anchoring a backline for the US Under 23 squad in Olympic Qualifiers.
That leaves only a few options in the back for New York. Anthony Wallace could step into a center back role. Karl Ouimette is another option, but he will likely stay with RBNY II, as they seek to advance past the Rochester Rhinos next Saturday in the USL Playoffs. Ronald Zubar, who hasn’t been very productive for the Red Bulls since returning from multiple injuries, seems to be at the top of the list to take Miazga’s place in the lineup according to Marsch, “Losing Matt for four games will be tough, you know, but we’ve been resilient all year and Ronald’s fully healthy so it’s time for him to show everything that he’s about. It hasn’t been an easy year for him but now we need him and we’ll need him to step in and do this job and I’m very, very confident that he will.”
Captain Dax McCarty echoed that sentiment, “It’s a blessing in disguise probably to get Ronald [Zubar] back, and get him a couple games. He’s had a tough season with injuries so I think he’s been itching for a couple games, so I think this is a great opportunity for him and I think it’s going to be good to have that depth going into the post-season.”
As of Sunday morning, the Red Bulls still led the league in points per game and goal differential. They are also tied on points with the Vancouver Whitecaps, who have played one more game than New York, and lost Saturday night to New York City. The Red Bulls loss on Friday night has left their Shield hopes rested somewhat on receiving favorable results in Sunday’s matches, with a specific focus on the LA Galaxy vs FC Dallas. Marsch, however, seems to have his eye set on bigger goals. “There are so many twists and turns left in this (season). Everyone started talking about us with the Supporters’ Shield and all this crap, but I don’t care about the Supporters’ Shield. I just want us to continue to move along and tonight was a step backwards for us, but that’s okay. That’s okay, you know, we’re gonna learn from it, we’re gonna become stronger for it. The guys will have the weekend off, they’ll have some time to get away, and we’ll get back Monday and get right back after it again so we won’t be phased.”
Featured Photo: Bill Twomey/Bill Twomey Photography