Blown leads back-breaking for New York Red Bulls, who drop another in DC

WASHINGTON—New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch did not like what he saw in the first nine minutes of Sunday’s encounter with D.C. United, which ultimately ended in a 2-2 draw.

When a booming summer thunderstorm rolled in and delayed the game for 75 minutes early in the first half, Marsch made some adjustments. He retreated to a video room on the mezzanine at RFK Stadium, poured over the footage and tweaked his side’s approach against an energetic United.

For a while, it worked – the Red Bulls charged ahead 2-0, riding goals by Bradley Wright-Phillips and Felipe to an early lead. But – just as they have multiple times in 2016 – the Red Bulls faded late, undone by United’s rudimentary approach. On a water-logged pitch, D.C. were left with few options and lumped balls forward. It worked splendidly.

“[This is] tough,” Jesse Marsch said. “On one level, it’s a real gutsy, hard, competitive strong performance. If you can walk away with three points, man, you’d feel good about how we played. But then the fact that we managed to now let them back in it has everybody searching for answers a little bit.

“This is another tough result to swallow,” said Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan. “For the most part, in a difficult game with bad circumstances, we did what we had to do and we played pretty well. It’s just breaking our backs right now to give up these leads. We could probably be first place in the Supporters’ Shield after all the points we’ve given up from winning positions at this point.”

Sunday’s draw was the fourth consecutive time the Red Bulls have blown a lead in a road game, and in three of those four matches – encounters with D.C., the Philadelphia Union and LA Galaxy – the Red Bulls have blown a two-goal lead. Yet they remain unbeaten in their past eight league matches (10 across all competitions) and are hovering within striking distance of Eastern Conference leader New York City FC.

So there are positives, still. On Sunday, though, Wright-Phillips was having none of it.

“It’s rubbish,” he said. “Mistakes. It’s happened, I don’t know, three times this season, and it’s gotta stop. I just heard a stat from Jesse [Marsch] that that’s a potential 16 points. It makes me feel sick.

“It’s something we have to work on. Just stop making mistakes. Concentrate. Just the little details – it’s something [we need to] focus on as a team. We don’t really care about talent and ability. We’re all here for a reason, we obviously have those things. Just concentrate and focus on the details and things like that won’t happen.”