With his first contribution in a four-match run at right back, Kyle Duncan scored and breathed life into a campaign that was failing. After pulling up with a hamstring injury in the lead-up to Montreal’s 23rd minute goal, what could be his last gasp on the field this season seemed like the end to that revitalized spirit.
The Red Bulls lost their single-season points record on Sunday night to Los Angeles FC, but that record-setting efficiency and standard, reached and maintained by most of those on this 2019 roster, has been gone for some time.
The subliminal messaging could be heard in the impassioned tone of Alex Muyl following the 2-0 win in Portland; a match he started in, and a performance that was unquestionably the Red Bulls’ best in the second half of 2019. He harped on commitment, going as far as to say players were “ready to run until they died” against the Timbers.
“If we can get that kind of, I don’t know, desire, and just the need for victory, to not lose, I think that would be a good thing for our team – not that we lost that, but just to double down on it and remember there’s always more in the tank, even when you think you’re empty,” Muyl said.
While Muyl has gotten his fair share of critique over the years, his unrivaled work rate is so integral to the Red Bulls, who seem to lack the type of character and resolve he spoke about.
New York was lifeless to start in Montreal, much the same as in Seattle on Sept. 15 and countless other matches this season. It has taken an absurd amount of wake-up calls to merely get the Red Bulls to sixth place and a .500 record, their worst season since moving to Harrison in 2010.
In this new playoff world of single-game knockouts, Chris Armas and his team can frame the situation as four matches separating them from MLS Cup. But, the other side to that coin is a team, which has not put together a four-game win streak all season, being 90 minutes away from elimination four straight times.