Loss to RSL a microcosm of Red Bulls' recent struggles

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New York’s 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake on Saturday night was a match that typified the team’s struggles in every way this season. A game that had a little bit of everything for the home team held nothing good for the Red Bulls in what ended up being a microcosm of the team’s season thus far.

There was Nat Borchers’ 13th-minute tally off a Kyle Beckerman corner kick, evoking memories of the string of games in May when the Red Bulls conceded free-kick goal after free-kick goal, including several off of corner kicks.

There was Luis Gil’s strike off a giveaway and from distance that put Real Salt Lake up 2-0, a painful reminder of the types of errors the back line committed during their sloppy play in late May. And the final nail in the coffin, an Álvaro Saborío penalty kick in the 77th minute, was the sixth kick from the spot conceded by New York this season, tied for most in MLS.

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It was telling that after the second goal, the entire team dropped their heads and never seemed like 11 men who could take the game over again and get a result on the road.

“I hate to use clichés, it was a terrible game,” assistant coach Mike Petke told MLSsoccer.com. “We need to get back to the attitude of last year. We were coming off a bad year last year and we came in wanting to prove something. We need to find that this year.”

What should have been a marquee showdown between two talented sides instead was a technical display showcasing only one team on the field. It was Real Salt Lake’s cast of hard-working characters who outshined New York’s star-studded starting XI.

“It wasn’t good enough,” Petke said. “That’s an understatement. What was lacking was the effort. This was an opportunity tonight against a team that has lost their last two games, missing a few guys. For whatever reason, we didn’t bring the effort.”

Petke said he was struggling to remember how many times the Red Bulls strung together multiple passes in the game. There was no hard running into space, movement off the ball or a willingness to do the little things to win. Instead, there was a lot of frustration and uneven play from New York.

There was a burst of balance for stretches of the final 30 minutes of the second half where New York maintained some possession in Salt Lake’s half, perhaps a glimmer of hope for the team after yet another dismal performance. The visitors went close twice during that stretch via a distance shot from Roy Miller and a header from Juan Agudelo that narrowly went wide, but the Red Bulls rarely looked like a cohesive side that could challenge one of the top teams in the league.

Or for that matter, even wanted to challenge Salt Lake this night.

“You look at guys like Kyle Beckerman and Will Johnson and, in the 88th minute, they’re running hard down the field, tracking back,” Petke said of Real Salt Lake. “I think it was an effort thing. For whatever reason, the passing game wasn’t good enough, what we did off the ball wasn’t good enough. All together, it wasn’t good enough.”

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer