In 2018, the New York Red Bulls won the Supporters' Shield by setting a new league record for single-season points (71) and wins (22). That success, though, feels further and further in the rearview mirror with each passing result in 2019.
The Red Bulls have stumbled to collect just five points after seven matches and are winless in their last five contests. Training has been fine, the players say, but for some reason it just hasn't translated to the games.
"On game days it's just not connected yet," defender Kemar Lawrence said after training this week. "It kind of gets you frustrated at times. We kind of reset that when we get here. We go over it again and say this is what you need to get right with your video. I feel like that time to getting it right, it's pretty, pretty, pretty close."
The optimistic view, that captain Luis Robles chooses to see, is such: If a team has to have such a poor run of form like this, this is the best time to endure it. The club have 27 games to get back on form, aided by a wide-open Eastern Conference.
"If there is a ton of struggle, you want to struggle in the beginning," Robles said. "It is because of our personnel that I feel confident that we will right the ship. It has been a struggle, and I am not going to lie to you, some things really have not gone our way. There have been mistakes made in the game, there have been lapses of concentration and we have been punished for it. If we are going to be the team that we expect to be, we cannot have those and I know that as time goes on, because of the experience that we have, it will get better."
Still, it hasn't impacted their morale.
"We're in high spirits," attacker Omir Fernandez said. "We know we're not doing too hot. We know we don't have the start that we all planned and wanted. But the spirits are high. This team is hard to break down. Coach said in one of our meetings, our foundation is strong. We have big players on the team, veterans that hold us down and give us a lot of hope. I think we're ready to come home and get three points."