Two games, no goals and five conceded.
It makes for tough reading for Red Bulls fans. After being the highest scoring team in Major League Soccer last season, the defending Supporters’ Shield winners have been held scoreless in the first two games of the 2016 campaign.
“We haven’t been that sharp,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said after Saturday’s loss to Montreal. “We haven’t put chances away. But that being said, we haven’t created enough either.”
Last Saturday’s 3-0 defeat in Montreal continued worrying trends from the season-opener. The Red Bulls couldn’t take advantage of chances when presented with them in the penalty box, couldn’t break down a compact Impact defense and were exposed by Montreal’s counterattacks. Individual defensive errors in the second half contributed to the team’s downfall.
What Toronto and Montreal have done in the first two games of the season is essentially turn their matches against the Red Bulls into a 45-minute game. Both clubs went into halftime tied at 0-0 and were able to pounce on opportunities in the second half. By keeping their defensive shape tight, the two Canadian sides have put the onus on the Red Bulls to break down them down and put pressure on the defense to remain error-free, something that has yet to happen.
“Obviously, the longer you go in games and you’re not able to take some of your good plays and make them add up,” Marsch said. “It puts more pressure on the backline and that’s what happened [Saturday].”
Are teams catching on to what the Red Bulls did so well last year? Perhaps, but Marsch also thinks that his team needs to clean up some their recent sloppy play.
“Teams are prepared for the press,” Marsch said after practice Tuesday. “They combat it in different ways. We just felt we haven’t made the game as fast and put the game on our terms as much as we would like. That being said, there’s moments in both games where we feel like we’re in control of the match and then we just let it slip. We’ll learn from these things and be ready for Saturday.”
A Look Ahead: vs. Houston Dynamo Saturday
There is some good news for the Red Bulls heading into their upcoming match against the Houston Dynamo. Gonzalo Veron, who was extremely impressive in preseason, is expected to be match ready Saturday. (Live coverage gets under way at 6:30 PM on MSG2).
A designated player signing, Veron had trouble fitting in when he joined the Red Bulls. It looked like he had finally adapted in the preseason games, but a hamstring injury delayed his season debut.
Now healthy, Veron could be the tonic to the Red Bulls’ scoring troubles. A skillful one-on-one player, Marsch is hoping that the Argentine can add an extra dimension to the attack.
“We used him a lot as a striker in preseason,” Marsch said. “I think there’s potential for that in this game. He can also tilt to the left or the right as well. We’ll think about how we want to game plan against Houston and then put something in place.”
Saturday’s game features a matchup with the highest scoring team in MLS this season. The Dynamo scored eight goals in the first two matches, including a 5-0 thrashing against FC Dallas Sunday.
Dynamo winger Andrew Wenger has had a big impact since being acquired via trade from Philadelphia in the offseason. He was the Man of the Match against Dallas, recording two goals and two assists in the Dynamo’s romp over their Texas rivals.
The Red Bulls can take heart from the Dynamo’s atrocious road record last season when Houston was just 2-10-5.