It's no secret the Red Bulls aren't quite tearing it up this preseason, but it took Brian Lewis over at the New York Post to really put it in perspective:
The Red Bulls are riding a three-game, 332-minutes scoreless streak into Wednesday’s Desert Diamond Cup game against the Galaxy. After their reserves got shut out 2-0 by essentially New England’s first-team on Saturday, the Red Bulls will likely field more regulars against MLS Cup-champion Los Angeles.
While that last bit of information is heartening, it's important to take a look at that three game 332-minute scoreless streak. That three game streak encompasses a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake in the Desert Diamond Cup, a 0-0 draw with Pumas UNAM in the Reto del Sol and the 2-0 loss to the New England Revolution back in Tuscon.
To be fair, the Red Bulls played a Salt Lake squad that fielded parts of their first team against, mostly, second teamers and trialists. New England played a lot of their first team and the Red Bulls, again, countered with reserves. To assume players who probably won't be on the roster, let alone get regular first team minutes, to stack up against players expected to contribute (even for the Revs, har har) isn't quite fair. The only game the Red Bulls went with their first team was against Pumas and they were in season. And another point needs to be made: This is the preseason, these games are about getting the kinks worked out.
But it certainly doesn't help that the team isn't scoring goals. And the symptoms are troubling. It appears the team, especially against Pumas, were defending with six and attacking with four, with nary a bridge between the two. You can have all the striker talent you want in the world class Thierry Henry, the scrappy Luke Rodgers, the young star Juan Agudelo, the big-yet-technically-refined Kenny Cooper, but it doesn't matter when they can't get the ball at their feet.
This could end up being an unfortunate personnel issue for the team going forward. It's no secret that if Erik Soler is going to bring in a third designated player, it's going to be in the attacking midfield role. If it gets bad enough - and there's little reason to believe that it will, but evidence that it could - the Red Bulls might not be able to wait until mid-season to fill that role.
It's certainly something to watch. Three meaningless games in February are more likely than not the bellwether for the season to come. But contingency plans for the Rafael Marquez-Teemu Tainio midfield are welcome.
Or not. Maybe they'll hang 4 on the Galaxy tonight.