Tenorio: Marsch preaching process after Red Bulls' slow start

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Believe in the process, and the goals will come. As Paul Tenorio notes, the maxim's being tested by New York's spring stumbles.

Put away those panic buttons in New York.

At least, that’s what New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch is telling his team after a fourth loss in five games to open the season. The fact of the matter is, New York has played better than its results. So, too, has Columbus Crew SC.

The process comes before winning.

- Jesse Marsch

Yet, 2015's two top teams in the East currently reside at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.

Speaking on Sunday afternoon after having some time to reflect on Saturday night’s 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City, Marsch seemed calm in his assessment of his team.  

“We feel strongly that we put a process in place and we try to continue to dedicate ourselves to understand what that process is,” Marsch told FourFourTwo. “We feel when we do that the right way, the byproduct is winning. The process comes before winning. In moments when the results are not going your way, it’s easy to feel frustrated and disappointment and anger and everything else. What’s key is to understand where we are with individuals, with the collective, and how our performances are either achieving the results we want or not and identifying how we can move forward. It sounds philosophical, and it is, but that’s how believe things work here.”

So how do you trust the process when you’re 1-4-0? Marsch said it’s through instilling confidence while also being critical and “understanding we’re on the right path.”

Two areas have been problem zones for New York: goal-scoring and center back play.

Let’s start with the former. The Red Bulls have been shut out in four of five games this season. Their 2014 MLS Golden Boot winner, Bradley Wright-Phillips, has yet to find the back of the net despite ranking third in the league in shots and first in shots on goal. On Saturday night, New York outshot Sporting KC, 22-7, yet couldn’t find a goal.

Marsch said the team is confident Wright-Phillips’ quality will eventually break through - that the goals will come. And when players arrive at practice on Monday, the staff will present them evidence showing they should stay the course. The Red Bulls, for example, are third in the league in shots per game, second in the league in possession and second in key passes per game.

In these moments, it can be hard to have faith, but it’s important to back up what we’re saying with facts and concrete information.

- Jesse Marsch

“We’re trying to find ways to reassure them that we’re on the right path and the goals will come,” Marsch said. “In these moments, it can be hard to have faith, but it’s important to back up what we’re saying with facts and concrete information.”

Now, as for that center back situation: On Saturday night, Chris Duvall, who had never started at center back at any level in his career, became the fifth person to start at that position for New York this season. On Sporting’s second goal of the night, Duvall was too easily turned by Dom Dwyer, yet another harsh moment for the Red Bulls’ central defenders.

With Gideon Baah (hamstring) and Damien Perrinelle (ACL) still injured, Marsch wouldn’t rule out looking outside of the team for help.

“When we built this team specifically for this year, we’ve done it in a way with a little room where if we need to make improvements in areas we can look to do that,” Marsch said. “The early parts of the season have highlighted the fact that maybe we don’t have enough depth and strength in that position, and so it’s something we’re considering in terms of looking at outside [options].

“But we believe strongly we do have very good players at that spot. It is key for some to get healthy and we know the reality is that will help with overall results. There’s a combination of doing some work and seeing if we can find the right fit, as well as patience to give guys a chance to get back into the lineup and back into form.”

This is MLS, and the league's defending champion, Portland, earned just six points in its first six games last year. New York would achieve the same with a win in San Jose on Wednesday. It’s not yet time to hit the panic button … but that time may be coming soon.

#PeakMLS

A few weeks into the season, and MLS continues to do what MLS does best: defy prediction. The only teams that are living up to their preseason forecasts are FC Dallas and Montreal, which sit in second place and first place in their respective conferences.

When you look at the rest of the standings, it feels like MLS breaks down into two categories, and it’s not East-West. It’s overachievers and underachievers.

The overachievers: Philadelphia, Orlando City, NYCFC, Chicago, D.C. United, Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake, San Jose, Colorado and Houston.

The underachievers: Portland, Seattle, LA Galaxy, Toronto, New York Red Bulls, Columbus and Vancouver.

New England, sitting fourth in the East, may be the only other team that sits at about the spot most predicted preseason.

Who is for real and who isn’t? Who knows. Let’s let a few more weeks of madness play out.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

So much for protecting skill players. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Final third

ON REFEREES: After a conference call to defend its early-season refereeing and an insistence that the emphasis to protect skill players was in place after the 2011 season, the worst tackle of the season resulted in a … yellow card.

Nigel de Jong lived up to his reputation when he came over the ball with his studs showing and destroyed the ankle (we think) of one of Major League Soccer’s brightest young skill players, Darlington Nagbe.

How it only earned a yellow is beyond comprehension. It was a straight red in any league in the world, and it’s likely going to earn a multi-game suspension from MLS.

ORLANDO LEFT WONDERING: Orlando City coach Adrian Heath came under some criticism for not using his substitutes in what turned out to be a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union.

The decision was magnified when Tranquillo Barnetta curled a gorgeous free kick into the upper-90 in the final minute to turn a road draw into a loss, but Heath definitely should have looked to his bench earlier.

The Lions are stretched thin already on Friday in replacing four starters – Tommy Redding, Cristian Higuita, Cyle Larin and Brek Shea – but both Carlos Rivas and Julio Baptista have proven themselves in either MLS or world soccer. Both would’ve helped a team that was playing on five days rest. There were other reasons to use the subs: Getting guys minutes develops depth and it also helps kill off a game.

Hindsight is 20-20, and Orlando City still sits in third in the East, but Heath surely will look back at that one and wonder if going to his bench earlier would have helped.

GOOD WEEKEND FOR NASL, USL: A round of applause for crowds in American soccer outside of MLS.

For FC Cincinatti’s home opener in the USL: 14,658. In San Antonio: 8,446. In Miami for NASL’s Miami FC: 10,156. In Oklahoma City for a pair of games, a total of 12,306.

CAPITAL GAINS: What a performance from D.C. United.

You can file me under those who have doubted United’s chances this season. I’ve pegged my hometown team for the bottom of the East. I just think the financial restrictions on an aging team will eventually catch up with them.

But D.C. coach Ben Olsen stuck with his squad and it turned in a dominant performance against Vancouver on Saturday in a 4-0 win. Patrick Nyarko was fantastic, Chris Rolfe continues to show why he’s one of the most underrated players in MLS and Luciano Acosta showed his ability when he came on as a substitute.

D.C. looks like a much more effective team when it gives Fabian Espindola a partner to work off of up top. Espindola likes to check and find the ball, and when he’s alone, it makes United easier to defend. Rolfe is so good at finding the pockets when Espindola checks, though, and that gives the Argentine more room to work.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Frustrated. Disappointed. Disheartened. The fact that four guys didn’t see it, it’s sad.” – New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps on a penalty kick claim that wasn’t called.

SOCCER READ OF THE WEEK: A heartbreaking story by The Washington Post’s Liz Sly about a suicide bombing after a youth soccer game in Baghdad.

More features at FourFourTwo.com/us/