It all seemed so familiar. Wednesday night, the New York Red Bulls gave up a goal inside the first 15 minutes, as they have done over and over again throughout the season. Throughout 2012 at home, the team has always bounced back to muster at least a draw draw, if not an outright win—but tonight, the streak ended, as Kansas City dealt the Red Bulls a crucial 2-0 defeat.
New York's performance was the definition of lackluster from top to bottom. On offense, the pairing of Henry and Cahill were unable to get a shot on targe in the first half. The eventual addition of Kenny Cooper and Sebastian Le Toux resolved the issue of there being no offense, but brought up a bigger issue of the team being unable to convert any of a number of good chances late in the game. KC's strong back line and Jimmy "Bridgette" Nielsen effectively clogged the box to ensure most crosses and long balls were useless.
The midfield felt like an experiment, with Rafa Marquez, Teemu Tainio, and Dax McCarty—hree players who each play best in a defensive midfield role—all being played at once. Did the midfield need significant tinkering after the Columbus game? While none of them were noticeably poor, none stood out as having a good game. The late addition of newcomer Lloyd Sam to the field brought a lot of energy and speed to the attack, and we're hopeful he might have a chance to put in a full 90 soon.
And what can be said about the defensive line, who gave up the 11th early goal of the season and then a second a few minutes later? They struggled all night with the speed and physicality of Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong, and may have been a little lucky not to give up more than the two goals. It's telling when the normally calm passing across the back before beginning an attack became panicked and broken up with just a little bit of pressure from Kamara.
Under normal circumstances, a single loss—even what ended up being the first home loss of the season—could be forgiven and moved beyond. But the timing (right in the playoff stretch in a very tight Eastern Conference) and the significance (missing a chance to leapfrog to first place) make this loss sting more than usual. And the chances of quickly bouncing back are pretty long: New York only gets two days to refresh and fix the problems before heading to Gillette Stadium, where they haven't won in 10 years.
POST MATCH REACTIONS
Coach Hans Backe on his assessment of the team's performance: "Poor marking on two set plays in the beginning. Too many lost 50-50s when we play against Kansas. Too many unforced errors means no rhythm on our attacking game. So it's a tough one to go down like that. A better second half, created decent number of chances but couldn't really put them. They were the better team today."
Thierry Henry, on who was the better team: "The only thing I told you for a very long time—we won't be able to come back all the time. That happened tonight. We played the same way we played defensively since the beginning of the season, but offensively we didn't...Kansas City were better than us, way better than us. They attacked the game better than us."
Tim Cahill, on whether it was that SKC was good or that RBNY was poor: "I don't think that there's anything special to their team. I think we didn't perform tonight. Compared to the game on Saturday, we've got to be really disappointed to what happened tonight. They won, credit to them—there's not much to say about that game but to put it behind us, because that's definitely not the team I know. We've got a lot more fight than that."
Rafa Marquez, on why the team starts so slowly: "It's a little bit of— I would call it a cancer from the beginning of the season. It's always up to the coaching staff to identify and try to change it. But it's been a lack of concentration since the beginning, in the first couple of minutes of each one of the games."
Bill Gaudette on disappointment: "Any time you lose, it's extremely disappointing. Especially at home, especially in the fashion we lost tonight. We didn't execute well enough, from start to finish. Overall, just very disappointed—but you know, it's not the end of the world. We have a game on Saturday so we right the ship quick—it's probably the only thing that's going on this week...everyone in this locker room is disappointed."
Connor Lade on why SKC dominated the game: "They've got big athletic guys, and when you're not coming out with the right energy and the right intensity, they're gonna pick you apart. I think it comes back to the way we started, and the way we kind of approached the game. I think we came in with the right mindset. It was said countless times that you've got to start better. But something I guess didn't click, and we've got to really adjust it in practice and find a way to make it better. At this point in the season, we can't be doing that."
Next match: Saturday, September 22nd 7:30 PM, at New England (TV: MSG)