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Red Bulls crash out of MLS is Back Tournament with Cincinnati loss

Dire performance in must-win group finale sends team home from the bubble

MLS: New York Red Bulls at FC Cincinnati
A deflated REd Bulls side goes home after going three and out.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls headed down to the Walt Disney World Resort expecting to make a big run for a chance to return to the CONCACAF Champions League in 2021.

But after an encouraging start with a win over a struggling Atlanta United, the Red Bulls came out flat in a loss to Columbus before crashing out with an even less excusable 2-0 defeat to FC Cincinnati.

RBNY rarely challenged the bunkered defense of FC Cincinnati, as new head coach Jaap Stam had five defenders in the back and the team rarely ventured forward. Red Bulls possessions would frequently lead to aimless crosses with few clear chances created.

One of these crosses created a counter-attack for Cincinnati. Yuya Kubo took advantage of a sleepy Red Bulls defense and smashed FCC into the lead late in the first half. Unlike last week’s match against Columbus, Chris Armas made zero changes at the half as the Red Bulls hoped to claw back.

But these hopes were mostly gone twelve minutes into the half as Haris Medunjanin whipped a corner towards the near post and Florian Valot stepped up to defend it. Unfortunately Valot’s left shoulder deflected the ball past David Jensen and into the back of the net putting Cincinnati up by two.

“Credit to [Cincinnati]. They executed their game plan exactly how they wanted to. We knew what to expect on a night like this and we didn’t handle business and that’s the reality of it.” said Sean Davis “It’s really disappointing. It hurts a lot right now and we had real aspirations to make a run. We wanted to win this tournament and to go out on a note like that and not take care of business is really disappointing. We knew exactly what this game was going to look like. Us a players, we have to take responsibility.

“We weren’t sharp enough. We didn’t find enough solutions against their block and then they create one or two chances and capitalize. That’s exactly what they wanted and, we again, I sound like a broken record because I said this last time, but we have to take a hard look in the mirror.

This has to hurt, it has to hurt each and every one of us. It has to hurt us enough to change and just be better. We have to be better and we have to start by holding each other accountable and take responsibility.”

With a goal differential of -3, it wasn’t enough for the Red Bulls to take one of the four third place positions to advance into the knockout stages. This had to be a very frustrating night for Chris Armas as he was looking to make a big run.

“It’s a frustrated locker room. We wanted more from the tournament and more from the game. We expected it to look like that and knew the challenges that would come to breaking down [Cincinnati’s defense].” said Armas “A team that’s organized, which was a strength of theirs. To understand all the things that become important on the day we were going to have to be sharp with little frustration.

We knew it’d be difficult, so understanding the spaces would be wide and then it becomes the overload, or is it a two-on-one, or is it the timing of a pass, the weight of a pass, the time to stay on the ball or the final pass. All that stuff becomes important and, at the same time, controlling things behind you. It seems like they looked for a few counter attacks.

They get one and it seems to come from a little bit of a blunder but they punished us. So I think it’s going to be part of our maturity as a team to understand those types of games and how to come out on top. We’ll look at it hard and we’ll learn. It’ll always be hard to win those games. If you have 20 shots and maybe two shots on goal conceded, it’s really frustrating.”