The New York Red Bulls have lost their last two games, and have won just one of their last five.
With no game last weekend during the international window, the squad had a time to reset and clear their minds, and they took advantage of that opportunity, by doing a team-building activity together.
"The team got together off the field, we spent a day at Lifetime Fitness," midfielder Sean Davis said at training, ahead of New York's game at the Seattle Sounders on Sunday (6 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; DAZN in Canada). "It wasn't to point fingers or analyze, it was actually to step back and enjoy each other's company away from the soccer field. That was really important for us. I think we all had a great time, great memories and brought us closer together. And that's what it's going to take for us in this final stretch is to stay unified, stick together. We already have great chemistry. And I think that that's going to become really important in this final stretch."
With the Red Bulls a perennial Supporters' Shield contender (and often winner) in recent years, this season's run has been more bumpy. While they are above the playoff line in the Eastern Conference, they sit down in 6th place, four points above the line with five games left in the regular season.
The team has been well off the pace of their Shield-winning campaign a year ago, scoring 15 fewer goals but more notably, already conceding 11 more goals than they did in the 2018 season.
And in an effort to change the tide, Davis said the coaching staff recommended the day away from the field at the gym as a way for the group to stick together.
"They realized how important it was, especially when we have some off time during the international window. It's important to obviously train a lot on the field, but it's also important to step back and reset in that way and spend some time with each other away from the soccer ball," he said.
While the activity was a hit with the players, attacker Daniel Royer insisted the need for a change in the routine did not imply the team is fractured.
"I think we always have a good team spirit. Sometimes it's nice to have a day like that, where you do different things not always being on the pitch. And It was a great day, we played some basketball, we did some different stuff together that we're not normally not doing all together. So that was a good day, reconnecting and regrouping," he explained.
The Red Bulls will meet a Sounders side that has had a similar season, a fact not lost on the road team.
"They've kind of been like us, they've been a little up and down," Davis said. "I think that they're coming off of a huge win against [LA] Galaxy. And then obviously a tough, tough game against Colorado where they were missing a lot of players. But they've been similar to us in that they know they're a good team. It's just been a little inconsistent at times, but we know going there, it's going to be a really difficult task."
For New York's newest player, Southampton loanee Josh Sims, the cross-continental road swing is a new experience.
"I mean, it's difficult, but I knew when I was coming out here it was going to be like this," he said. "This is sort of part of the reason why I did because such great experience coming out here and it's so different to England where an away game would be like, maybe an hour, two hours away, whereas this one like flying like all the way across the country, so I'm looking forward to it."