The Week In New York Red Bulls: Hitting a low point vs. D.C. United
A frustrating setback slows progress.
What went well
Not much. The New York Red Bulls had what might have been its ugliest performance of the season on the road at RFK Stadium. That it came against a rival in an important Eastern Conference game only added to the frustration.
The Red Bulls seemed to finally be turning things around. They were unbeaten in three straight games coming into the match and had absolutely demolished FC Dallas on the last weekend in April. Bradley Wright-Phillips was scoring again and the Aurélien Collin trade helped to settle a tumultuous back line situation.
The Red Bulls were listless against D.C. The backline again was nearly invisible, and this time the fullbacks were the weakest link. New York failed to match United’s energy on the field. It looked like they didn’t want to be there, and considering their start to the season and an Eastern Conference crowd that refuses to pull away, the Red Bulls whiffed on an opportunity to pull themselves right back into the picture as a legitimate MLS contender.
Just about everything. Take your pick.
One of the most noticeable failures again was on the back line, where Kemar Lawrence was so bad defensively that Jesse Marsch had no choice but to go to his substitute bench in the first half to remove the Jamaican. It was a mystifying performance in a frustrating season for Lawrence, who was one of the bright spots for New York last year and looked to be the real deal.
Lawrence wasn’t the only problem on New York’s back line, nor was he the only problem for the Red Bulls. They lacked organization, giving D.C. United too much space and failing to match the energy in the game. As Marsch would say after the game, he felt as though he could have subbed multiple players off in the first half based on performance.
It was a top-to-bottom ugly performance from New York.
Quote of the week
"I want to apologize to the fans for our performance. It's one of the most embarrassing performances I've been a part of since I've been at this club. There's no excuse for stepping on the field and playing in the first half the way that we did. It's tough to put into words. There's no excuse for it.” – Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty owning the RFK Stadium nightmare.
The need-to-know facts
- The Red Bulls have 10 points through 11 games this season. They had 11 points through five games last season.
- New York has seven losses this season after losing just 10 games all of last year. The Red Bulls didn’t lose their seventh game last year until Aug. 26.
- The Red Bulls’ minus-7 goal differential is worst in MLS.
- Saturday’s loss to D.C. United marked the sixth time this season the Red Bulls have been shut out.
Video of the week
Plenty of issues on display for the Red Bulls on D.C. United’s second goal.
Winner of the week
No one in the New York locker room felt like a winner on the weekend, but McCarty gets the nod here for his blunt honesty after the game. It’s a quality for which McCarty has often been praised, but it’s much easier to be honest and refreshing on a winning team than in the locker room after an ugly loss. It’s the reason McCarty has the armband, and I’m sure he feels an extra sense of responsibility due to his captain status, as well.
Loser of the week
The Jamaican fullback played the role of first-half scapegoat. OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Lawrence was bad against United, and he has been a defensive liability this year for the Red Bulls. It felt harsh, though, when Marsch yanked him with one minute to go before halftime. That’s sending a statement – both to the player and to the team – and it’s no mistake Marsch chose not to wait until halftime to make the change.
A tough lesson for the young defender, but perhaps one he needed to turn things around this season after a breakout campaign in 2015.
Paul Tenorio is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTenorio.