In the New York Red Bulls locker room after a 3-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union on Bradley Carnell’s debut as interim coach, the team’s longest tenured player provided a dose of reality Sunday night.
“Ryan Meara said it really well. There’s a culture at this club of winning and being a premier team in this league. And when we look at the performance that we put on at home, that's just not good enough,” defender Tim Parker said. “Two straight home losses is something that this club isn't used to, the fans aren't used to and we're not used to. And that's something that we've got to kind of look ourselves in the mirror , judge ourselves and be very tough on ourselves.”
Carnell stepped in as interim head coach in place of Chris Armas, who parted ways with the club Friday morning. It was an emotional few days because Armas, as an assistant under Jesse Marsch and as the head coach, was a popular figure, a players’ coach.
That, in itself, is a reality check, Parker said.
“When you lose your head coach, now everyone's playing for their jobs,” he sad. “We’re gonna have to have a talk with a bunch of guys. I think it's everyone in the locker room. Everyone's gotta know that we're playing for our jobs at this point and we got to prove that we want to be here and that we deserve to be here.”
Carnell said it’s been an emotional rollercoaster the last few days. His outlet was the training ground, where he could just focus on the game and trying to build the team from a tough loss to D.C. United Wednesday night and Armas’ subsequent departure.
“Then you go home and then there's somber thoughts and there's emotions and there's feelings,” said Carnell, calling Armas a “friend for life.”
Carnell said valuable lessons will be learned from his first match in charge, including the importance of finishing your chances.
“When a game is on a knife's edge, they score a worldie, we don’t hit the target,” he said. “And that's how it goes. It was a race to the first goal and we know that [if] we were to score the first goal, then it's a different game.”
“Then the energy, the bubble kind of bursts and the guys are not dealing with, a lot of sort of second guessing,” he said.
Carnell was also upset at the lack of fight in individual battles, which is a staple of Red Bulls soccer for several years.
“Football, soccer, it’s all about winning your 1-v-1 battles,” he said. “And that's what it is. In whichever area of the field, you just let a guy walk past you, that’s got to be personal. That's got to be you against me, and do whatever it takes at all costs.”
“There's a lot of good things. I spoke a little bit, I pointed out the personal things, what I didn’t enjoy on the day in terms of individual — the competitive nature, the aggressiveness, that, for me, was a little bit bothersome,” he added. “I told them you know if that's the way we're gonna go about our business, we’re not gonna have a hope, we’re not gonna have a chance.”
Given the emotions of the last few days, Carnell said he’s giving the players the day off on Monday and Tuesday, before the preparations begin for another meeting against D.C. United on Saturday (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, on DAZN in Canada).
Parker said the time off is needed to recharge and refocus ahead of a critical stretch of the season.
“We need to come back with good spirits,” Parker said. “We need to come back with our attitudes right, ready to put our heads down and get back to work.”