Front-office shakeup no excuse for lackadaisical Red Bulls

HARRISON, N.J. – When Jerome de Bontin replaced Erik Solér as general manager for the New York Red Bulls four days before the club’s match against the Chicago Fire, it could have been a distraction. But the Red Bulls refused to use that as an excuse for their lackluster performance in a disappointing defeat to the Fire on Saturday.

New York suffered a 2-0 loss to Chicago at Red Bull Arena in a game that dropped New York to fourth place in the tight Eastern Conference. But the players insisted after the match that their subpar showing was because of their own doing, and not because of the front office shakeup from earlier in the week

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“That’s part of business, that’s part of what we sign up for when we have this job,” midfielder Dax McCarty told reporters after the game. “It’s not something that the players let affect them. I didn’t see any change. I thought the attitude was good in training. Everyone had the same mentality.

“It’s just a game where you don’t play your best and things weren’t clicking.”

Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry had expressed the same notion in the build-up to the pivotal Eastern tilt, but the two Designated Players are some of the most experienced players on the Red Bulls and MLS, having seen and dealt with their fair share of shakeups during their respective careers.

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Still, even the younger players who are still somewhat unfamiliar with the business side of professional soccer agreed that de Bontin stepping in for Solér was not to blame for the humbling loss.

“As a player, you can’t focus on those things and use that as anything more than [it is],” said rookie defender/midfielder Connor Lade. “It’s a change and you've got to adapt to whatever’s thrown at you during the season. There’s a lot of ups and downs, but you can’t let anything affect you on the field and it’s not an excuse for the way we played tonight or the result we got. It’s just a change for us.”

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Goalkeeper Luis Robles admitted after the match that the Red Bulls players discussed the change briefly when the news came down and that de Bontin had been introduced to the team on Wednesday. But Robles, too, was certain New York was not distracted against the Fire, rather they just weren’t good enough.

“They did a good job of just making [the move] very subtle,” said Robles. “[De Bontin] came in and introduced himself, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have to work on the field, regardless of what’s going on in the front office. When we step on the field, the front office isn’t involved anymore.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.