The New York Red Bulls are demonstrating a disturbing trend on the road, and their loss to the Houston Dynamo on Friday night further magnified the issue.
For a second consecutive week, the Red Bulls put forth a flat showing as visitors en route to suffering a disappointing defeat. After falling 3-1 to the Montreal Impact in their first visit to Stade Saputo last week, they experienced a 2-0 setback at BBVA Compass Stadium against Houston which knocked them out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. And it also left manager Hans Backe searching for answers as to why his team is a shell of the one that is undefeated at home this season.
“I’m very disappointed with the performance today,” Backe told reporters after the game. “Defending wise, we were all over the place. In our attacking game, too many unforced errors, couldn’t really create anything over 90 minutes.”
Houston, who are now in first place in the East and still undefeated at home, spoiled Tim Cahill’s MLS debut by playing one of their most complete performances of the season against a Red Bulls side that just could not match their intensity.
The Dynamo jumped out in front in the second minute courtesy of a goal from Jermaine Taylor and they doubled the lead before halftime when Calen Carr hit a header past goalkeeper Bill Gaudette in a game that saw the hosts win the possession battle.
Highlights: HOU 2, NY 0
“They disoriented the team a little bit,” said Cahill, who played 90 minutes despite not being fully fit. “And we struggled and we conceded two goals.”
Adding to a slew of questions the Red Bulls will need to answer in the coming days was Wilman Conde’s bizarre second-half substitution. Conde asked to come off the field with 20 minutes to go and while he initially looked to have been hurt, that may not necessarily have been the case.
“I’m not sure if he wanted to switch,” said Backe of his oft-injured center back. “I wonder if it’s a groin injury or something like that, or perhaps he felt it. I don’t think he got injured, but he wanted to go out.”
Backe made it clear that the heat and humidity in Houston was not the reason for New York’s flat performance and that work needs to be done if they are to bounce back next week when they once again take on the Dynamo in a match that could put the Red Bulls back atop the Eastern Conference.
“We definitely have to have a look at the video and go through our defending game, our attacking game,” Backe said. “We need to do something to match them.”
The good news for New York is that they will be playing that match inside the friendly confines of Red Bull Arena, where they have yet to lose in regular-season play this year. But even a win next week will not erase the fact that this Red Bulls team needs to find a way to start playing better on the road.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.