HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls have had a golden opportunity in front of them: First place in the Eastern Conference all to themselves.
With Sporting Kansas City's 1-0 defeat to the Chicago Fire on Friday, the Red Bulls’ Sunday visit to StubHub Center to take on slumping Chivas USA (5 pm ET, UniMas) represents a chance to break the deadlock with Sporting at the top of the Eastern Conference. To do that, though, the Red Bulls will need to solve a problem that has been plaguing them for quite a long time: inconsistent road performances.
“We keep on talking about the same thing every time since I’ve been here,” captain Thierry Henry told reporters on Friday. ”It’s not just me saying it. You just have to look at the results and the way we play away from home, everybody, every single one of us.”
It is no secret that winning on the road in MLS is tough, especially with the lengthy and taxing travel. But New York are 4-6-3 this season and 1-4-2 in their last seven matches away from Red Bull Arena, and are 16-24-22 since the start of the 2010 season. This season, they have struggled to look like a balanced team that can both attack and defend competently when away from Red Bull Arena.
Still, the Red Bulls are determined to put an end to those issues, which now seem to be as much mental as they are tactical.
“I suppose it’s probably one of the trickiest games of the season,” said Tim Cahill of the match against Chivas USA. “Their results haven’t been the best and they’re due to get one, and knowing our luck at the moment on the road, it’s against us.
“But overall, the boys are fit again, we’re feeling confident and we’re excited.”
If New York are to put an end to their road woes on Sunday, they will also need to fix their other main problem. The Red Bulls have been shutout in five of their last nine matches, home or away, a remarkable statistic considering they are currently tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
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Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke had hinted at the possibility of making some changes early in the week to find a cure for that lack of goal-scoring production. But do not expect a complete overhaul by Petke, not this late in the season and not even against the Western Conference cellar dwellers.
“We are who we are,” Petke told MLSsoccer.com. “There’s many reasons for this, but we are who we are and we play a 4-4-2 and that’s for the personnel that we have. Every game we will look to exploit certain areas of opposing teams. Some games it doesn’t work, some games it does.
“How do we go about scoring goals? We go about it by hopefully capitalizing on what we’ve done every road trip, which is identify things and try to exploit them. If they want to show up and exploit them, then we’ll have a successful day.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.