The New York Red Bulls are out of the 2016 US Open Cup for the same reason they fell out of the 2015 edition: they couldn't beat Philadelphia Union. A 2-1 loss in Chester forced RBNY fans to revisit a number of familiar themes, and not just because this was the third game in a row that we have watched the Red Bulls score first and not win.
1. Same old story: Philly beat RBNY in USOC
Heard the one about the USOC match between RBNY and Philly that the Red Bulls dominated but ultimately lost? Of course you have: it happened last year.
This year, at least the Union had the decency to stage the ritual running of the Bulls out of the Cup in their own stadium. And they didn't let it go to penalties. So RBNY won't be completely exhausted for Sunday's game at NYCFC. There are some small consolations to be found in having uncovered Philadelphia Union as RBNY's newfound knockout nemesis.
2. Same old story: Red Bulls don't take their chances
Everything seemed to be going very well for RBNY at half-time: the team didn't just take a lead, 1-0, into the half, it was also carrying a staggering statistical advantage.
Halftime stats-— Jason Baum (@JasonBaumPR) June 30, 2016
Shots: NY 14, PHI 1
SOG: NY 6, PHI 1
Fouls: NY 6, PHI 6@MikeGrella10 goal in the 17th minute, unassisted.
So the Red Bulls' missed a few opportunities in the first 45 minutes - there would surely be chances to bag a few more in the second. And there were, but RBNY found ways to shank, scuff and flub them all.
Marquez with some stellar defensive work here. pic.twitter.com/cDbpIOFiz0— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) June 30, 2016
Credit Union 'keeper Andre Blake, who worked hard in the first half in particular and kept his team in with a chance going into the second 45. A chance the home team grabbed with both hands.
The shot stats were still lopsided at the end of the game, but Philly was a lot busier in attack in the second 45, and needed fewer chances to get the only stats that count: goals.
Indeed, the most efficient Red Bull on the night was Jesse Marsch, who found his target first time when illustrating his frustration at being ejected from the game.
We ❤️ @jessemarsch #RBNY #REDTogether pic.twitter.com/PWUk7wHLIm— JohnC.-TheRedEdition (@jacorbett70) June 30, 2016
3. Same old story: RBNY gets beat on the break
The textbook way to beat these Bulls is to fill the space traditionally occupied by full backs that RBNY has a tendency to leave to its center backs to cover. The Union's winner was right out of that textbook:
Make that 2-1 Philly! Pontius again! pic.twitter.com/XTX8ylUsEQ— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) June 30, 2016
That's Aurelien Collin desperately trying to cover Ilsinho's run into the left back's zone, and Chris Pontius charging into space that might once have contained a right back.
The equalizer came from a very well played through ball that caught the entire defense frantically tracking back and unable to stop either the pass or the runner (Pontius again).
Chris Pontius levels things up. It's 1-1! pic.twitter.com/7Ho67H3aS2— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) June 30, 2016
For the third time in three games, RBNY scored first (in the 17th minute) but was not able to score again or hold on to the lead. This time around, however, we can't blame five-at-the-back or any other tactical innovation from the bench. We'll never know if Marsch planned to bring a fifth defender on for the last 20 or 30 minutes, because the Red Bulls were chasing the game from the 60th minute. The only significant adjustment was bringing Gonzalo Veron for an attempt to get the 4-2-2-2 firing - as has been the case all season, it didn't really have much impact.
This loss was a regression to the way the team was losing at the start of the season: miss chances up front and get caught out at the back. And now the Red Bulls carry a stockpile of frustrations, built up over the last three winless games, into Sunday's derby with NYCFC.