Not good enough. Every week since the middle of August, the New York Red Bulls simply have not been good enough as a team. There is not much time left in the season, and the team desperately need a win. Now, with DC United coming to town, the team has to regroup on short rest and find a way to get a result.
The Red Bulls have not won a match since their 3-2 come from behind win against FC Cincinnati in the semi-finals of the US Open Cup. That was back on August 15. Since then, week after week, the same struggles repeat themselves in the post game analysis. The team lacks both offensive firepower and defensive awareness, and things do not seem to be changing.
Facing DC United, regardless of their place in the standings, is never an easy match up. United has had a very rough year this season and cannot wait to get out of RFK Stadium. Their recent form, however, is something to build upon heading into the last few matches of the year. DC has won four of their last six matches including their most recent match, a convincing 4-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
In that same match, striker Patrick Mullins had a career day. He netted four goals and was an absolute force the entire 90 minutes. Those were also his only four goals of the whole season, bringing his tally to 12 in two years with DC United.
Mullins will likely get the start against the Red Bulls, which could spell trouble for a backline that has been nothing short of unimpressive in the past two months. Failing to mark troublesome players has been the biggest issue, so Mullins could quickly add to his tally if New York does not stay focused.
Jesse Marsch also needs to be wary of new signing Paul Arriola. The winger struggled a bit in his first few matches in the MLS, but has since grabbed two assists and seems to be fitting in with DC very well. His pace and crossing ability are quality and could create much distress for the left side of New York. Kemar Lawrence may need to put in a bit more a defensive effort to shut down Arriola this match.
Switching from defense to offense, the Red Bulls are still yet to find production from anyone but Bradley Wright-Phillips. Gonzalo Veron did score a penalty in their 3-2 loss to Columbus, but New York still needs another threat from open play. There are murmurings that Daniel Royer could play, and even start, in this match against DC, but it is still up in the air.
With the amount of rest the Red Bulls are getting in between these crucial matches, it will be of no surprise if Marsch decides to implement some changes into the starting eleven. Kljestan was subbed out early in the second half against Columbus, so he should be more than fit to start this match. Another start for Derek Etienne Jr or Veron could be on the cards as most of the wingers played the full 90 minutes.
The change in formation that Marsch used against the Crew did not seem to go over too well, but he could very well use it again. A 5-4-1 of sorts, the formation was intended to offer more defensive cover and allow for the midfielders to play off of each other. Wright-Phillips was still isolated up top but still held his own throughout the match.
This match should be a chance for the Red Bulls to go out in front of their home fans and put on a solid showing against the last place team in the Eastern Conference. On paper, it should be an easy win that boosts the Red Bulls point total and pushes them ever closer to a playoff spot. Sadly, fans have expected wins for the past month and a half and have only been met with bitter disappointment and excuses.
There are only five matches remaining after the matchup with DC United, so there is not a lot of room for error. A straightforward victory over their rivals could set New York up nicely for a strong finish to the season. It will not be easy, as nothing has been this year, but a fiery performance is not something that should sound out of the question for the Red Bulls.