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The Hidden Positive in the Red Bulls’ Road Woes

New York have a dreadful road record but they're doing something that could spell playoff success.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls have played 13 road games in MLS play thus far this season. They have one road win. The win was a rather emphatic one as they beat New York City FC 7-0 at Yankee Stadium back in May. While that win was extremely satisfying to the RBNY organization and fans, it’s still only one single win.

What’s been more significant are those five draws and seven losses in the other 12 away games that’s been the most concerning. Not only have New York failed to pick up many wins away from Red Bull Arena, they’ve had a nasty habit of taking leads in a number of these games only to see them walk away with draws and losses. In six different MLS games RBNY have dropped points after taking leads; five of which became draws and once in Utah, they saw a first half lead turn into a loss. Not to mention that the Red Bulls saw their first half lead in their Round of 16 U.S. Open Cup match at the Philadelphia Union get turned around in the second half as they went crashing out of the tournament.

That’s a lot of carnage and what could be positive about a 1-7-5 road record?

For one, they aren’t alone in road futility. Pretty much every team in MLS stinks away from home.
  • There are five teams (Columbus Crew SC, Chicago Fire, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes and the Houston Dynamo) are winless on the road in 2016. Amazingly, the Timbers currently hold a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
  • Another five teams (Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution, Orlando City SC and D.C. United) have a single road win with RBNY, Philly and New England occupying playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
  • Four more teams (Montreal Impact, Colorado Rapids, Sporting Kansas City and Seattle Sounders FC) have two wins away from home. Three of those teams (Impact, Rapids and SKC) are all currently in playoff position. In fact, the Rapids find themselves second in the Supporter’s Shield race and lead all of MLS 1.86 points per game despite their 2-3-5 record away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
  • Toronto FC, who started their season with an eight-game road trip, LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps FC each have three road wins with both TFC and LAG in the playoffs if the season ended today.
  • Only FC Dallas, the current Supporter’s Shield leaders and Real Salt Lake have racked up four away wins and sit comfortably in playoff position.
  • New York City FC are far and away the best team on the road in MLS with an impressive six wins against four losses and two draws.
Let’s think about the playoffs.

For the Red Bulls, the 2016 season is about achieving playoff success. RBNY are no longer the team with an empty trophy case. As winners of two out of the last three Supporter’s Shields, the franchise no-longer has that burden hanging over them. As they have cemented themselves as a successful team year-in and year-out in the Red Bull Arena era, the missing MLS Cup can be the clear goal without any lingering anxiety about being the last MLS original without any hardware.

Despite their poor road record, New York have been quietly good at scoring goals on the road and in the playoffs, which can prove to be immense.

In a two-legged aggregate series, winning on the road isn’t always the main objective. In fact, scoring loses and draws can be invaluable, particularly for the team heading home for the second leg.

While RBNY have suffered five shut out loses away from Red Bull Arena on five different occasions, they have managed to score a goal in two loses. New York has scored in all five of their road draws and have managed multiple goals in three of those games. Incidentally, their last three road games have all resulted in 2-2 ties.

New York has done quite well scoring against playoffs team on the road this year.

Out of their 13 road games so far, eight of them have been against teams currently holding playoff spots. In those eight games, they’ve scored in five of them.

Three of those teams are from the stronger Western Conference and RBNY scored in 2-1 loses at Colorado and RSL while managing a 2-2 last Sunday night in LA.

In the East, the Red Bulls have played four playoff teams thus far in a total of eight games. In those games, New York posted and world headline-making 7-0 victory over NYC at Yankee Stadium and scored twice in a 2-2 draw at the Union. Only Montreal, New England and NYC were able to register shut out home victories; once apiece.

The New York Red Bulls’ 2016 road form has been marked by a dreadful start and an inability to hold leads. However, going almost unnoticed is the fact that New York’s offense has been pretty potent away from Red Bull Arena. If they can maintain their road scoring ability in the MLS Cup Playoffs, they’ll set themselves up for a long and successful run.