It was the club’s fourth game away from the friendly confines of Red Bull Arena in 12 days, including a Round-of-16 US Open Cup loss at Philadelphia Wednesday night. Meanwhile, NYCFC had a full week to prepare for the fifth installment of the New York Derby.
RBNY weren't biting.
“It wasn’t easy, but that’s an excuse,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “We tried to make a couple different changes to get some fresh legs on the field. … We’re certainly not going to use the heavy legs as an excuse. They just out-competed us and wanted it more.”
During that stretch of games, the Red Bulls accumulated just one point and are now 1-7-4 on the road.
“For whatever reason, we haven’t been able to compete at the same level and it’s something we need to fix if we want to be as good as we know we can be. We can’t be dropping points on the road,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “We need to be competing. Unfortunately today wasn’t that.”
The Red Bulls viciously punished NYCFC on set pieces in their historic 7-0 win in May. But it was the hosts who capitalized on a corner kick just eight minutes into Sunday's game, when Jack Harrison slipped past Mike Grella and fired in off Robles.
“We were scrambling when they played the ball out wide and [Harrison] dinked it over one of our defenders,” Robles said. “I think he shot it from the edge of the box. Until the ball hit me, I didn’t see the ball.”
According to Sacha Kljestan, NYCFC succeeded on two fronts Sunday: defensively, by stepping up the physicality to deny Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips quality scoring chances, and scoring a pair of goals that Kljestan said “easily could have been prevented.”
“We have to do a better job of putting the game on our terms and having better performances from our bigger players on the road,” Kljestan said.
The silver lining for the Red Bulls? Despite this difficult stretch, they are still in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, with three of their next four games at home, where they are 6-2.
“The group just has to stick together,” Kljestan said. “We’ve got to get through this tough moment together, get a couple of wins under our belt and try to get us on a roll again.”