On paper, it should have been a bounceback match for the Red Bulls. After last Saturday’s 4-0 loss on the road to San Jose, New York returned home to Red Bull Arena and were hosting the last-place team in the Western Conference.
But New York came out flat against Seattle, failing to register a shot on goal until Seth Stammler forced Kasey Keller into a diving save in the 64th minute. It was a good defensive effort by the Red Bulls, minus the miscue on Montero’s third goal of the season that ended up dooming them to a 1-0 loss.
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The Red Bulls struggled to find cohesion in the final third, rarely looking dangerous or testing the Sounders’ back line. The team struggled to strong together possession in the opening 20 minutes of the game, relying on long balls to their disadvantage.
“We really couldn’t break them down,” New York head coach Hans Backe said after the match.
The frustration for New York is compounded by the fact that, after a fast start to the season that saw them climb to the top of the Eastern Conference, the Red Bulls are now enduring their first losing streak of the season. After 2009’s last-place finish, a season where the team won just five times in league play, the team is confident that this slide will end soon.
“It’s just two losses," defender Tim Ream told MLSsoccer.com. "It is not going to be a trend."
The Sounders’ 4-5-1 formation caused problems for the Red Bulls, who couldn’t spring their forwards for good opportunities as they played over the top to get past the five-man midfield. It was a similar story in April, when FC Dallas’ similar formation caused all sorts of issues for New York’s offense.
Trend or not, this is a franchise just one season removed from going more than three months without a win in league play. At times on Saturday night, the Red Bulls looked like their old selves, as they struggled offensively and lacked cohesion. Losing still hurts as much they say, but the end result will not be a repeat of the year past.
“It sucked last year,” midfielder Seth Stammler told MLSsoccer.com about losing. “And it’s not good this year. But we’re not the same.”
Stammler termed the San Jose loss, where the team played a man down for over 70 minutes, an “anomaly.” But he concedes that losing to Seattle, at home and playing a relatively even match, was difficult to swallow. Despite the mini-losing streak, the Red Bulls still believe they have wings heading into Thursday night’s showdown with Columbus at Red Bull Arena.
“I’m not concerned, in a way, I think we’re solid in a way,” Backe said. “We’re hard to beat; we [just] have to work on the attacking game.”