The New York Red Bulls went down to our nation's capital to face a D.C. United team that was skidding (two losses in its last three home games leading up to this one) while RBNY was soaring (seven points from the last nine available prior to this match). DCU had suffered a demoralizing home defeat to a New York team just five days ago: the slapstick comedy merchants from the Bronx, NYCFC, had bumbled into RFK Stadium and somehow snagged three points.
RBNY had reason to be confident, but that confidence was sapped over 90 minutes; the Red Bulls trudge home to Harrison with nothing but two more goals conceded and a loss to add to their 2016 league record.
All throughout the first half the back line looked lost and sluggish, unable to help out Luis Robles, RBNY's blameless 'keeper in an otherwise inept defensive unit.
DC took decisive advantage of the backline's woes in the 20th minute: Patrick Nyarko threaded a long pass to Marcelo Sarvas - picking out a huge gap in the defense, thoughtfully framed by Kemar Lawrence, Dax McCarty ad Aurelien Collin. As he got close to the goal, Sarvas was able to pull Robles off his line at the near post, and still had plenty of room to cross the ball to Alvaro Saborio who tapped in for the opening goal.
How out of sync were the Red Bulls? Just before Saborio scored, Collin was in the left back position, Kemar Lawrence was in midfield, Dax McCarty and Felipe were trotting forward having temporarily filled in as auxiliary centerbacks, Sal Zizzo was gently drifting back out to his position at right back. Only Chris Duvall (a right back deputizing, again, at center back after Ronald Zubar was held out to prevent a minor injury becoming a bigger one) was where you'd expect to him to be - and he was outnumbered as Sarvas peeled right to collect Nyarko's pass and Saborio peeled left to wait for the cross.
The second goal from DC, in the 43rd minute, was a similar story: the back six was once again slowly trying to get back into position when DCU punched the ball into the danger zone and the entire RBNY defensive unit basically watched the ball cross from one side of goal to the other. Nyarko netted with a well-taken volley after smart work by Lamar Neagle to beat the offside trap.
On the bright side, Gonzalo Veron did make his second start of the season and was able to make it through almost 60 minutes; he was subbed out in the 57th minute to make way for Lloyd Sam. But that is scant consolation for a 2-0 loss: RBNY's seventh loss of the season so far. And when a team has lost that often in just 11 games, it is small wonder that the good feelings of the preceding three-game unbeaten streak seemed to dissipate so quickly.
There are three matches remaining before the two week break for this summer's Copa America Centenario, and Marsch will probably be looking forward to having the time to sit down with the squad and focus on the issues that are holding the team back right now.