A team with high standards does not seek to sugar-coat its bad days - and if there was any positive at all to be gleaned from the New York Red Bulls’ 3-1 loss to LA Galaxy at Red Bull Arena, it was that the home team was in no mood to find excuses for being second-best from start to finish.
“I have to take responsibility for this, because to have a team that’s not ready to play from the start and play a first half like that with no life, no commitment and no belief, I have to look carefully at what I am doing,” said Jesse Marsch after the game. “There’s not enough guys that are playing up to their potential and to their abilities, that has to fall on my shoulders. I’ve got to figure out how to get this group playing better and more to where I know it can and make things clear to the guys and challenging them.
So this is the worst performance at home since I’ve been here at Red Bulls, for sure and on that side of things, I’m very disappointed at myself and now I have to find a way to get things back to where they were.”
Things are a long way from where they were. RBNY’s saving grace during an uneven start to MLS 2017 was its home record - unbeaten in five outings at Red Bull Arena this season, and unbeaten at home in the MLS regular season for 19 straight games stretching back to the early stages of the 2016 season.
Eight minutes into LA Galaxy’s visit to RBA, the record was in jeopardy. Romain Alessandrini bounced a free-kick from a seemingly innocuous position past Luis Robles.
Credit defender Jelle Van Damme with making the run that put Robles in two minds and created the space for the ball to travel into the net unmolested.
A minute later, Alessandrini started and finished the move that brought LA its second goal.
It was a great pass to Giovani Dos Santos, that switched play so successfully the Red Bulls turned their backs on Alessandrini and didn’t notice him again until he had burst into the space in the box where Dos Santos found him with his return pass. Robles parried the shot, but only sufficiently to put a little topspin on it - and it bounced gently over the line.
Jesse Marsch’s half-time talk, and the decision to sub out Alex Muyl for Mike Grella, didn’t turn the tide. Two goals up on the road, LA could afford to let the Red Bulls have the ball and focus on maintaining defensive shape and purpose.
Marsch tried to turn up the heat. Fredrik Gulbrandsen arrived for Sean Davis in the 63rd minute, triggering an adjustment to the formation and more numbers up front. Connor Lade came out for Sal Zizzo in 74th minute.
Four minutes after Marsch made his last move from the bench, LA iced the game. Mike Grella chopped down Alessandrini, and Dos Santos put the Galaxy three up from the penalty spot.
The Red Bulls were not without chances, they just couldn’t convert them. That changed in second-half stoppage time. The Galaxy was reduced to 10 men after Bradley Diallo was sent off in the 90th minute. Three minutes later, Daniel Royer tapped in to at least ensure RBNY wouldn’t be shut out for the third consecutive game.
“Tonight seemed a bit bizarre to me, I can’t really figure it out. We talked all week about being us and doing what makes us so good especially playing at home and in the first twenty minutes of the game we come out and play like an amateur team.” said Sacha Kljestan after the match. “It’s hard to explain, but I think some guys are lacking in confidence and are lacking on the ball and it’s hurting us, physically in the first twenty minutes we lost every battle. It’s so disappointing.”
The Red Bulls will have to work hard to make sure their situation does not get worse - next up is red-hot Toronto FC. The home fortress has been breached, and TFC is not the opponent a team short on confidence wants to pay right now. Toronto has won six straight in the league, and will kick off as favorite against RBNY on Friday, May 19.