Four goals conceded. One goal scored. Two losses. Zero points.
That’s how the New York Red Bulls have started their 2012 season, with their most recent a familiar loss to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night by a 2-0 count.
What’s most concerning is the manner in which they lost. Just as they did in the season-opening loss to FC Dallas last weekend, the Red Bulls put forth a lackluster offensive performance in the first half that paved the way for defeat. New York lacked creativity and sharpness, even if they did enjoy more possession against RSL than they are used to.
The lack of sharpness is what ultimately cost the visitors a goal. In the 39th minute a turnover by midfielder Victor Pálsson allowed for RSL forward Fabián Espíndola to spring free on goal and hit a shot between rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara’s legs.
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 2, New York 0
“You can’t make these kind of unforced errors against good teams,” Backe told reporters after the game. “They kill you. We had five in the first half. Not under pressure, sloppy passing, they scored one of those.”
Things picked up in the second half for New York. Switching from the more defensive-minded 4-2-3-1 formation they started the game with to a more conventional 4-4-2, the Red Bulls looked a more dangerous side.
That didn’t stop RSL from doubling the lead in the 58th minute. After RSL beat an offside trap and played a ball across the 18, Meara denied Espíndola from close range but could not prevent Luis Gil from firing home the rebound.
“It’s about executing better,” said center back Stephen Keel. “Essentially, you look at the four goals we’ve conceded, it’s just silly mistakes. Just mental lapses and a couple of decision making here and there. You clean those up, and we’re OK. It’s about being focused and switched on for 90 minutes."
That might be what the team needs in terms of defense, but offensively New York need to be sharper and less predictable. The Red Bulls have only managed to look capable of scoring when other teams sit back and defend their comfortable leads.
“Our team plan, because we have quality players in the team, should be to pass the ball faster,” said midfielder Joel Lindpere. “Try to hurt as much [the] opponent. Look forward, not try to sit with the ball, we need to pass it around faster.
“We can see that when we start to move the ball and pass it, then we create chances and we can hurt them. It means we have to be sharper and more aggressive.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com.