Showing signs of fatigue, New York Red Bulls question if they have necessary mental toughness

HARRISON, N.J. – After citing fatigue as a factor in their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union on July 16, the New York Red Bulls struggled to find their legs at times in Saturday's 1-1 tie with the San Jose Earthquakes. The Red Bulls allowed a late game-tying goal at Red Bull Arena over the weekend to finish 1-1-1 during a three-games-in-eight-days stretch that also included a lopsided win over the Columbus Crew.

“You don’t really feel the fatigue, especially from the two games prior, until the second half kicks in and they start pressing us trying to get that first goal,” said midfielder Eric Alexander, whose poor headed clearance in the 85th minute against San Jose played a role in New York relinquishing their lead and failing to produce a fourth shutout to the season.

With nine players starting all three games last week, New York were glad to take an early lead against San Jose rather than surrendering an early goal as they did in Philadelphia. But several players were running on fumes in the second stanza, which played a part in their inability to close down space in the waning moments.

“I think we looked a little heavy,” Alexander said. “We came in at halftime, a couple of guys said we need to find some energy in the second half and pick it up. [In] bits and pieces here and there, I thought we looked alright, but I think three games in eight days, it kind of wears on you, and we’re lucky we have a little break.”

The "break" cited by Alexander is merely a normal week's rest before another run of three games in eight days. That stretch starts with a friendly against Arsenal on July 26, followed four days later by a nationally televised road game at altitude against Real Salt Lake and concludes on Aug. 2 with a home game against the New England Revolution.

To goalkeeper Luis Robles New York's problems may be more a question of mental fortitude, given their defensive struggles, than simply a physical issue.

“I think you look at that schedule, and that’s difficult,” said Robles. “We played 90 minutes, and we didn’t make too many changes to our lineup, so you know those guys are going to be tired, so that’s expected. Mistakes are going to happen.

"But what I’m talking about is the mental toughness, and right now, starting for myself and all the way to the top, we have to question if we have that, and if we don’t have that, how we’re going to get it.”

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