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A Couple Or Three Things: 2-0 LAFC result finally gives Red Bulls a normal loss

Struber’s team faces Southern California giants shorthanded and unlucky, but success in such a difficult game was always going to be a bonus

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Los Angeles FC
Carlos Coronel had another solid performance despite the two breaches of his net.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of a 2-0 loss to Los Angeles FC that stung but didn’t shock, OaM editor Ben Cork tells ya a couple or three things about the latest New York Red Bulls result.

Sometimes you lose to good teams in their stadium

On the heels of a week where some corners of Red Bulls discourse were focused on supposed consequences of the poor table position currently held by the club’s USL-based reserve team, the first team was handed a decisive defeat by the man who finished dead last in the USL Western Conference one year ago.

Despite the rough treatment the second division gave US national team right back Steve Cherundolo in his 15th-place effort managing Los Angeles FC’s reserve affiliate Las Vegas Lights last year, his debut season with the club’s first team is showing both the limits of reducing the metrics of management to pure wins and losses. The LAFC team Cherundolo has frontrunning for the Supporters Shield after missing the playoffs in 2021 has been the class of the league this season, and the former Hannover captain and reserves manager is likely in line for a Coach of the Year award.

Easy for me to say as a starving soccer blogger whose job precariously grasps at relevancy, but reacting to on-paper results requires context. Facing the best team in the league on three day’s rest, on a cross-country road trip, with your two most important players prohibited from playing due to covid protocols as Aaron Long and Luquinhas were…let’s just say I’ll make the excuses if Gerhard Struber doesn’t want to. A win over first-place LAFC in Tinseltown was maybe achievable on a certain charmed day, but a loss in this fixture was never going to be a crisis situation on a micro or macro level.

Away losses now disappointment more than danger

A little over a month ago, a loss like Sunday’s could have been one that spelled the end of the party for a Red Bulls team with a paradox of home and away form. New York’s home struggles had been largely washed away by perfect away results for the season’s opening months before dropped points in Philadelphia, Miami, and Charlotte left the team on something of a ledge by early June.

But at that exact moment the team’s home form finally kicked into gear with thrilling wins over conference rivals DC, Toronto, and NYCFC at Red Bull Arena. The team has not only secured points but has seen goalscoring form hit more of a stride after early weeks where the team struggled to find openings against timid but opportunistic opponents.

As could have been predicted, the Red Bulls home and away form has reverted to the mean, and the team has secured itself high enough in the table to have breathing room for dropped points. A result like a 2-0 loss in California, while not desirable or even acceptable, can increasingly be seen as part of the ebb and flow of normal league form.

Carlos Coronel: perfect goalkeeper?

If there’s one positive point to take away from Saturday’s game, or any recent Red Bulls game really, it’s that Carlos Coronel is a special player at this level and perhaps beyond. While much attention has understandably been given to his goal-generating compatriot Luquinhas, Coronel’s calm and athletic presence in the New York net continues to underpin the team’s normally-sturdy defensive structure. Coronel was beaten for two goals on Sunday, the first a feinted breakaway finish from Cristian Arango and the second after Diego Palacios had time to control and pick his spot for a far post blast.

But a powerful one handed save on a drive from a loose Franco Escobar in the first half was a reminder of the Brazilian’s dominance against all but the clearest chances. Even beyond his elite shot-stopping capabilities, Coronel’s mobility and sure-footed ball use allows New York’s high defensive line to push and take risks. Save for a mishap back in April against Montreal in which miscommunication with Tom Edwards allowed Romell Quioto to score a winner, Coronel has barely set a foot wrong in 2022 and increasingly shows as the type of inspirational mistake-free netminder who will never let a hard-working performance down by allowing an easy goal. Gerhard Struber described the 25-year-old as arguably the best goalkeeper in MLS at the end of last season, and he looks to be one of the surest building blocks the club has had in years.