HANOVER, N.J. – Unbeaten in their last dozen matches in league play, the New York Red Bulls don’t exactly look or feel like one of the best teams in MLS over the past 10 weeks, likely the result of dropped points and blown leads late in matches.
From their last 12 games, the Red Bulls have managed five wins and seven draws, an impressive run of form that has seen them climb up the Eastern Conference and pointed towards what would be a seventh straight year in the postseason. But in many of those matches, such as the Red Bulls' recent 3-3 result at Toronto FC on Sunday, there have been squandered leads. And in most of those seven draws the Red Bulls were up two goals before settling for the tie.
It has all the marks of a frustrating scenario for a team that has dominated nearly every game since a July 3 loss at New York City FC but managed to take only 22 points (of a maximum 36) from this stretch of fixtures.
“We can’t avoid the discussion, it’s smack dab in the middle of everything we do right now. It’s an obvious, painful reality that we’re in the middle. We’ve done some soul-searching, we’re obviously frustrated. We’re also confident that we’re a good team,” head coach Jesse Marsch said following training on Wednesday.
“I understand that a lot of the dialogue out there is about these 2-0 leads or two goals leads that we have that we give up. There’s also a dialogue internally that we’re a very good team and that we haven’t lost in a long time.”
A good team, certainly, but if the Red Bulls could have held onto the lead in four of these matches they would be top of the Eastern Conference and in the lead for a second straight Supporters' Shield.
It is something that Marsch, who began his career in MLS during the inaugural season in 1996, has never experienced before at quite this level.
“You’ve been through maybe small versions of it here or there but nothing like this where it has become the definition of who we are and what our season is. It takes us all into unchartered territory so, you know, it’s not like there is a manual or a book out there with how to deal with all these different challenges,” Marsch said.
“And when they come they’re hard to sort through. But I think we have time to think about things and when we have time to look each other in the eyes and challenge each, we know we’re going to come out. That’s one of the keys.”