The Red Bulls Will Make the Playoffs in Spite of Themselves

Jesse Marsch and his team falter for the (who knows?)th time this season.

I watched in agony today as I saw the same storyline play out once again before my eyes.

The Red Bulls take a two goal lead "Awesome, this win is in the books".
The Red Bulls concede "Still have the lead, there isn't enough time left to tie anyway".
The Red Bulls concede again "Why isn't this a surprise?"

Yes, once again, the New York Red Bulls have let us all down. For the 6th? 7th? 8th? time this year the Red Bulls have taken a two goal lead and somehow coughed up three points and had to settle for just one. This storyline has followed the team for months now and they clearly have not been able to shake it off. If even just a couple of those ties were wins, we would be talking about a second consecutive Supporters' Shield, the first seed in the playoffs, and coasting to the MLS Cup.

But we aren't. Once again, the discussion revolves around the Red Bulls inability to close games and secure victories. Fans, players, and coaches alike, cannot escape it. A terrible case of the yips has taken over this team, and seemingly nothing is being done to combat it. For about 65 minutes today, the Red Bulls looked like champions, like one of the best teams in MLS. But then it all unraveled. Jesse Marsch questionably subbed off an active Daniel Royer for Mike Grella, and eight minutes later, Jozy Altidore laced a free kick into the top left corner of the net. At this point the game may have well have been called, because the result had already been secured. Fans could have predicted Altidore's game tying goal the moment after his first one found the back of the net. Players knew. Coaches knew. Toronto FC's fans knew. Everyone knew. The Red Bulls just can't stop tripping over themselves when the game matters the most, and so many points have been left out on the field. On a day where the Red Bulls could have clinched a playoff spot and gone to the top of the Eastern Conference, we are all still racking our minds with how this could have possibly happened.

The Red Bulls will still make the playoffs. They'll probably advance through the first round too. But when push comes to shove, I can't see a way the Red Bulls go any further than that. They are such a talented team, maybe one of the best in MLS. They have two bona fide MVP candidates in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan. But this team will likely falter in the playoffs, and frustrate its agonizing fan base once again. Why? Because the team can't close out games and nothing is being done about it.

If this had only happened once or twice, blame would fall on the players. But this is now a regular occurrence. It is practically in the 2016 Red Bulls' genetic makeup to tie games in which they held two goal leads. In my estimation, the blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach Jesse Marsch. Someone needs to be held accountable for this incompetence, and Marsch is to blame. It is his job to lead the team, put them in the best positions to win, and get the most out of his players. Frankly, he is currently failing at all three of those tasks. I believe Jesse Marsch is a great coach, I even thought he should be considered for the USMNT job. But right now, he, and the team he is tasked with leading to the franchise's first championship, look like massive flops.

The roster is too stacked with talent to miss the playoffs. But when the Red Bulls get there, and they will, it will be no thanks to their ability to win games or their head coach. Marsch's job seems safe now, but if the Red Bulls falter in the playoffs, he may be on the hotseat.

Here's to hoping the Red Bulls can pull themselves together and peak at the right time. Until then, Jesse Marsch and his team will have to regain the trust and faith of the fans who have suffered for long enough.

The opinions stated herein are wholly those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of or