The New York Red Bulls have not started the season as they would have liked, that much is for sure. How have the Supporters' Shield holders stumbled to picking up just four points after five matches? Well, that's more complex.
Minnesota United came to Red Bull Arena on Saturday without Darwin Quintero and walked away with a 2-1 win, aided by a pair of defensive lapses from the home side. The Red Bulls now have two home losses in 2019, equaling their total for the entirety of last season.
Is it time to worry? Well, captain Luis Robles doesn't think so.
"Remember 1-and-6 in 2016? There are some similarities to that," Robles said after the match, referring to the Red Bulls' slow start that ended with the club finishing atop the Eastern Conference. "We were able to turn that around and fall within three points of the Supporters’ Shield. So I’m confident in this group that we can turn it around … understanding that there’s no help coming through the door. It’s on our shoulders."
Adversity won't shake the hardened and veteran Red Bulls, who have made the playoffs nine years in a row and 15 of the last 16 seasons.
"I’m a person that I’m at my best when things get tough," head coach Chris Armas asserted. "So I think that we’ll continue to look hard in how we can help as a staff. But I think the energy as a team and the game plans have been right. I think we’re thinking about things the right way."
The Red Bulls have been a bit unlucky as well, conceding more goals than their underlying numbers would suggest. All stats per Opta.
|Shots faced||47||3rd fewest|
|Goals conceded||6||T-7th fewest|
|xG against||5.33||2nd fewest|
One reason? Teams are simply looking to bypass their vaunted press. Armas admits that he has been forced to make adjustments because of it and will continue to look for the right combination.
"If you think back to 2015 when we started this project, we caught everybody by surprise," Armas said. "Our pressing was new to the league. Things over time have changed now because we’re not really catching teams by surprise. We can still overwhelm teams with our pressing and counter-pressing but there’s been a shift and we can see. It used to be a couple of teams changed their way and now a lot of teams have changed their way.
"It’s been a shift — a big shift. And we need to clearly understand that. … So what do we need to do? We can be better," Armas added. "We have to stick to who we are. Maybe it’s two strikers. Maybe it’s one. It’s just going to be that we have to be aggressive, commit numbers and do that for 90 minutes ... It’s a little bit of a tough stretch, but we’re learning a lot about what teams are doing and how we can address that."
Still, the Red Bulls know they need to improve and they aren't shirking blame.
"As far as a message to my teammates: It’s very clear we haven’t been good enough," Robles said. "All of us can be better. And when we look at the mirror we know we’re capable of so much more. And yet when you look at the nine games if you include Champions League, we haven’t played to our full potential."
The club will look to pick up just their second win of the season on Sunday against Sporting Kansas City (7 pm ET | FS1 in US, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada).