BULLS RUN: RED BULLS LOOK TO SHAKE OFF TORONTO SETBACK

Steve Cangialosi and Shep Messing break down the key moments from the Red Bulls' 2-1 loss to Toronto FC.

Jesse Marsch didn’t want to make any excuses for the Red Bulls’ 2-1 loss to Toronto FC on Wednesday night.

Sure, the Red Bulls were without some of their starters due to international commitments, injury or suspension, but the head coach squarely put the onus of the defeat on the players that took the pitch at BMO Field.

“I would say that every single guy that started tonight was not good enough,” Marsch said after the game. “Eleven guys were not good enough and it led to our downfall.”

With a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and extend their lead in the race for the Supporters’ Shield crown, the Red Bulls came up short in their visit across the border. Frustrated by the performance, Marsch lamented the Red Bulls’ inability to win the second ball – in other words, the ball after initial contact while it’s in the air – was the main reason for their defeat.

“What it came down to was: Who was able to pick up all the loose balls? Who was able to grind out the plays? We came in second so many times [Wednesday night],” Marsch said. “So credit to Toronto, but very disappointing for us because this is the first time all year I feel this has been the case to, at this point in the season, not understand what big games are like. It’s disappointing from us.”

New York still needs just a single point in its final two games to secure the top seed, but its advantage in the Shield race is a statistical dead heat with FC Dallas. Both sides are tied with 54 points, but the Red Bulls would win the tiebreaker due to a superior goal differential (+15 for NY compared to +11 for FC Dallas).

The Red Bulls hold their destiny, but any slip-up in either of the final two matches could cost them the Shield, something which seemed a formality the past few weeks.

A LOOK AHEAD: RED BULLS VS. PHILADELPHIA UNION SUNDAY

Red Bulls Union
16-10-6 (54 Points) Record 9-16-7 (31 Points)
L-1
Streak L-1
11-3-2 (Home) Home/Road Record 3-9-4 (Road)
1st Conference Position 9th
56 Goals 40
1.75 Goals Per Game 1.25
41 Goals Allowed 51
1.28 Goals Allowed Per Game 1.59
Bradley Wright-Phillips (15) Top Goal Scorer C.J. Sapong (9)
Sacha Kljestan (12) Assists Sebastien Le Toux (6)

In their final regular-season home game, the Red Bulls will have the chance to put their loss to Toronto behind them and clinch the East in front of their home fans Sunday. Live coverage gets under way at 2:30 PM with Red Bulls Game Night on MSG+2 and will be joined in progress on MSG+ after the Rangers-Devils game.

If there’s one team that has the Red Bulls’ number at Red Bull Arena, it’s the Union. Philadelphia knocked out New York from the US Open Cup this year on July 21 and have beaten their rivals in league play on May 24 with a 2-0 blanking.

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The Union’s ability to spring an effective counterattack has been the reason for their success this season in a place where they’ve traditionally struggled. In their two wins over RBNY, the Union have surrendered ball possession to the Red Bulls. When there’s been a turnover in midfield, Philadelphia has pounced and punished New York.

The good news for the Red Bulls is that they did beat the Union in their last encounter – a 3-1 victory on Aug. 1 at PPL Park. They’ve also won their last four games overall after suffering a loss this season.

Bradley Wright-Phillips puts the Red Bulls ahead for good after getting a great feed from Shaun Wright-Phillips.