Rainy Days: New York Red Bulls Road Struggles Continue At D.C. United

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In the grand scheme of searching for the franchise’s first MLS Cup, Sunday’s draw at D.C. United was not the worst result for the New York Red Bulls. The team still sits third-place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Toronto FC and four points behind leaders NYCFC. The troubling aspect was how the Red Bulls again lost a two goal lead in the blink of an eye to drop points on the road.

New York Red Bulls Road Struggles Continue At D.C. United

Passing lightning and rain storms in the D.C. area halted the game after only a few minutes, with a delay of over an hour before the two Atlantic Cup rivals returned to a flooded field. With a through ball basically impossible, the game took on a physical nature as both teams battled to make plays.

Several attacks were halted by impressive tackles – the only problem was that the tackles were coming from the field itself.

A poor giveaway from DC defender Sean Franklin saw Red Bulls midfielder Mike Grella gain possession and find forward Bradley Wright-Phillips in front of goal for a 1-0 lead. Wright-Phillips’ 15th goal of the season put the visitors firmly in control heading into halftime.

In the 64th minute, New York doubled their lead when BWP executed an excellent weighted pass for midfielder Felipe Martins to slot the ball near-post past D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid for a 2-0 advantage. Credited with a secondary assist on the score, Sacha Kljestan recorded his 15th assist of the season to set a new single-season club record.

But then déjà vu struck the Red Bulls on the road.

In a span of only three minutes, a clumsy foul by leftback Kemar Lawrence gave the hosts a penalty kick and poor defending from a corner led to the equalizing goal from forward Patrick Mullins. Head coach Jesse Marsch was disappointed with the result, saying that the habit of giving up leads on the road is “almost entirely mental”.

The Red Bulls have this week to regroup before a home encounter with the New England Revolution on Sunday afternoon.

Field Conditions

A day that leaves the field in puddles is never easy, and the Red Bulls should take a positive from gaining a result under difficult circumstances.
After the weather delay, conditions were almost unplayable as the ball seemed to come to a full stop during passing sequences.

The rain made the Red Bulls’ high-press system difficult to utilize and the players adapted well overall

A Hit in Confidence?

Manager Jesse Marsch stating that the issues on the road may be a mentality issue could stem from his tactical choices when holding a second-half lead. Games in the past against Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew saw him go with a fifth defender late in the match, only to see the move backfire and drop points away from home.

Could this have led to a confidence issue when playing outside of Red Bull Arena?

The team has been unbeaten across all competitions since a July 3rd loss to NYCFC (4-6-0), but must start to find ways of closing out victories on the road.

Sophomore Slump for Taxi

After a sensational first season with New York last year, defender Kemar Lawrence has struggled at times throughout 2016.

His presence in the attack and crosses into the box can cause fits for opposing teams, but his foul late in the game to give D.C. their first goal from the penalty spot set problems into motion for the team that they could not recover from.

Battling injuries and balancing international duty in the summer with the Jamaican national team, the Red Bulls will be hoping for more consistent performances from the 23-year old down the stretch.