The New York Red Bulls started the season grinding out results with ugly, gritty wins at home against Chicago and on the road in Seattle. That scrappy play gave way to offensive struggles as New York, struggling to find offensive cohesion, were shutout in consecutive efforts in league play.
All that changed Thursday night against Columbus—but the result stayed the same.
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Three times in New York’s 3-0 loss to Columbus—including twice in the second half—the Red Bulls hit the woodwork. They had chance after chance on William Hesmer's goal, but it came to nothing. In the postgame press conference, head coach Hans Backe talked about improved offensive flow and praised the team’s work rate, but the loss still was a difficult one to swallow for the Red Bulls.
“This hurts,” midfielder Dane Richards told MLSSoccer.com. “It is very frustrating, much like the Dallas game where they had chance after chance but couldn’t score. We had so many chances and we couldn’t score.”
There are positives to take away from this match as New York were clearly the better team. But the truth is that after a third straight loss, reality has set in for New York. Featuring a lineup of seven regulars from 2009’s last place team, it is fast becoming clear that this team, while better than the travesty of the year past, is still a long way from being a cup contender.
“It’s a defeat that hurts,” Backe said. “Our best performance in the league.”
Despite holding the majority of possession, shots and corner kicks in the first half of Thursday night’s game at Red Bull Arena, the team was unable to turn their advantage into the one stat that matters—goals.
Whether free kicks, in alone on the keeper or on broken plays, the Red Bulls couldn’t put away their chances. Only a Tony Tchani header in the 81st minute kept New York from a third straight goose egg. Even though they are tied for the most games played in MLS, New York is tied for fourth from the bottom in scoring.
“I’m not saying we absolutely dominated, but we definitely had the better chances,” forward John Wolyniec told MLSSoccer.com.
If style points were given in MLS, then the Red Bulls would have been clear winners on Thursday night against a side that bested them in the 2008 MLS Cup final.
But a team that did plenty of winning ugly to start the season and catapult themselves to the top of the conference now needs to find a way to get their scoring touch, and do so fast. The improved offensive effort in a game where the Red Bulls had more than double the number of shots than their opponents left the team a tad bit jaded.
“When you look at the result, it doesn’t matter,” forward Juan Pablo Angel said about Red Bulls dominating possession.
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.