New York Red Bulls strain to keep composure amid winless start: "It's starting to creep in a little bit"

The New York Red Bulls are still winless on the season, and they are having a hard time believing it after their performance on Saturday.

The Red Bulls were left gobsmacked at the 1-0 loss they suffered at the hands of Atlantic Cup rivals D.C. United at RFK Stadium. New York conceded a very early corner-kick goal to Davy Arnaud, but then dominated possession and created a bevy of quality scoring chances that somehow never made their way into the back of the net.

There were a pair of open headers from Thierry Henry, a golden look from Lloyd Sam, a Peguy Luyindula shot off the post, a couple of chances from Jonny Steele, a good opportunity from Eric Alexander, and more. None of them went in, leaving the Red Bulls to rue their second defeat of the season and sixth match without a victory.

“Now, it’s starting to creep in a little bit,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told reporters when asked about the club’s slow start. “It’s still far from pushing the panic button, far from anything like that. But now it’s getting to the point – especially after a game like this, a game in Chicago, a second half with Chivas [USA], where we just couldn’t finish them off – that [we're] going, ‘What the hell is going on here?’

“But overall, we’re a good team and we have good players and we showed that tonight. All we can do is put it behind us and get ready for the next game.”

The Red Bulls will not have to wait very long for that, as they host the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). That is as much of a blessing as it is a curse, as New York do not have much time to work on fixing their scoring woes.

Petke’s side was the highest-scoring team in 2013 en route to claiming the Supporters’ Shield, but so far has just six goals in six games despite returning the core of last year’s roster. The defeat in D.C. was the first time the Red Bulls were shut out this season, but it will not be the last unless they begin to capitalize on their opportunities.

“It’s a minor travesty that the result we had to show for it was a loss,” said midfielder Dax McCarty, who had a chance to score in the second half but inexplicably tried to pass instead of shooting. “Sometimes the soccer gods are smiling on you and you get lucky bounces here and there, and sometimes they aren’t. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves. The score should’ve been, realistically, 4- or 5-1 and that’s being generous.

"[The lack of finishing is] concerning because you always want to have goal-scorers and you want to have guys hungry to score," McCarty later added. "I think every single player on the field, maybe except for the defenders, can look at themselves and say they had a good chance to finish off a chance on goal. It’s disappointing and it’s something that we need to learn from and build on.” 

Even with all the inaccuracy in front of goal, the Red Bulls saw lots of positives in the loss that dropped them to 0-2-4. The ability to dominate possession for large stretches and creating so many chances was another sign of progress for the club and Henry, who is not shy of clamoring for better performances from his team even after wins.

“I’m very critical usually, but if we carry on playing like we played in the second half, hopefully we can get on a good run because there’s nothing to say about how we played,” said Henry. “After the [first] 30 minutes, I thought we passed the ball well, we created chances, sometimes we were a bit unlucky, sometimes we weren’t unlucky.

“But we had the ball and I don’t think we deserved to lose, but full credit to D.C. They won the game.”

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