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Monday NY Gaffer: Set-pieces need work

HARRISON, N.J. — Sunday night played out to a disappointing 3-2 loss for the Red Bulls, their first defeat at Red Bull Arena this season. The Monday Gaffer looks at the loss, which snapped a four-game stretch of three wins and a tie for New York.

1. Set-Piece Disaster

The Red Bulls have conceded four goals over their past two games, three of which have come off set-pieces. It is a worrisome trend that is compounded by their own ineptitude when taking corners and free kicks at the other end.

On Sunday night, the Red Bulls earned 14 corner kicks (vs. just two for Chivas USA) but produced no goals from all those chances. So though the Red Bulls must defend set-pieces better, they must also begin converting their own opportunities.

“I think we have been pretty close, but we haven’t scored enough,” head coach Hans Backe said. “We should score a little bit more with the number of set plays we had.”

The team will train at Red Bull Arena once this week to utilize the larger pitch for set pieces with the hope of improving the service for dead-ball situations.

2. The Impact of Montreal

Many in New York camp blame last Wednesday’s midweek friendly in Montreal for their lethargic performance on Sunday night. Backe had worried last week about the team’s lack of training ahead of the match, and his Red Bulls seemed to lack sharpness after playing the friendly.

“It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact,” forward Thierry Henry said. “That’s not how you prepare a game. That’s how it is. We had one training session before the game. That’s just how it is, and you saw that today the team was a little bit flat, period.”

It’s a poor excuse from Henry, though — especially given the heavy midweek schedules of his previous two clubs, Arsenal and Barcelona, when they combined Champions League, domestic cups and regular-season campaigns. It may have been an unnecessary match in Montreal, but it’s not an impossible obstacle.

Besides, playing in Montreal had nothing to do with the Red Bulls' poor marking on two dead-ball situations on Sunday night.

3. No Ribbon on It

Dwayne De Rosario celebrated his 33rd birthday on Sunday with a first-half penalty kick conversion. It was the midfielder's first goal in a Red Bulls jersey since his early April trade to New York.

“Not the way I want to score, in a loss, but hopefully this is a sign of more to come,” De Rosario said.

4. Effortless

Through the first eight games of the season — including the Red Bulls' only other loss, in Philadelphia — it was hard to fault the club’s effort. New York had earned a reputation as a team that defended as a whole and who worked hard for each other on and off the ball.

But on Sunday night, there seemed to be a lethargy about the team. The midfield in particular struggled with winning the second ball and making timely challenges.

“It’s just a game that you hope we can just forget it as soon as possible and bounce back against Houston on Saturday,” Backe said.

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at