(Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch – Photo by Mike Lawrence)
The Red Bulls lost a heartbreaker on Saturday night to the Vancouver Whitecaps, 2-1, at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night, and it was their fourth straight loss. Their record has dipped to 4-5-5 on the season.
The Red Bulls started the season strong, as they were unbeaten in their first seven games (3-0-4) until a loss on the road to the New England Revolution on May 2nd. Their record was 4-1-5 when they took the pitch at Red Bull Arena on May 24th against the lowly Philadelphia Union. They played a listless effort that day and lost 2-0. The following Sunday, they traveled to Seattle to face the Sounders and coughed up a 1-0 second-half lead and lost 2-1. Five days later, they lost 4-2 on the road to the Houston Dynamo. Their next game was a US Open Cup game on the 16th, an easy 3-0 win against the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks.
The heat is on Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch, who still hears boos from fans still unhappy he took over for Mike Petke. Marsch said to the question of if he has ever faced a losing streak like this, “It certainly feels like right now things are going against us. If you dwell on that, then it’s being a loser. Quite honestly, if we start to feel sorry for ourselves then we’re going to dig even a bigger hole. Right now I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’m ready for this challenge, we’re going to figure out a way to get out of it and, again, it starts with me.
The Red Bulls had a chance to strike early, when Sal Zizzo, in his first game back since suffering a leg injury in April, was pulled down inside the box in the fourth minute. Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips took the penalty kick, and struck a hard shot to the left side, but Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted guessed correctly and swatted it away.
The Red Bulls were dealt a bit of adversity in the 10th minute whwn midfielder Sacha Kljestan was sent off after being issued a red card for fighting.
Marsch said of Kljestan’s red card, “He absolutely has to be smarter, that was a terrible red card.”
Kljestan said on the cause of the red card, “It was a stupid play by me. I take responsibility. Waston is hugging me in the box and I threw an elbow towards him to get rid of him. I didn’t connect on the elbow and then I don’t know if the ref gave the red card for the elbow or for Waston standing over me and I tried to push him back and put my leg up and he acted like I stepped on him. I have to take responsibility for what I did. I made a stupid play and an idiotic decision in the heat of the moment and I have to take responsibility for losing this game for us because I think if I stay on this field we win the game.”
On what he said to his teammates, Kljestan said, “I gave my apologies to them at halftime for putting them in that position and having to run so much more and work so much harder and put them in a position to be fighting and playing a man down so I apologized to my teammates and they know how sorry I am.”
Wright-Phillips said of Kljestan’s red card, “We don’t need to be playing with a man down. Sacha has already apologized. These things happen in football just like missing two penalties, you have to play with a man down. Like I said before, if these things don’t happen it’s a totally different game. I think we would’ve won that game. Sacha and I disappointed the team a bit today.”
Vancouver didn’t waste any time taking advantage of the extra man, and scored in the 15th minute when Steven Beitashour found an opening down the wing and whipped in a cross that was finished from close range by Kekuta Manneh.
Vancouver almost got another one minutes late when Octavio Rivero had a chance from the top of the penalty area and it went off the right post.
Despite playing a man down, the Red Bulls came out firing in the second half. They put the pressure on, and in the 64th minute, second-half sub Anatole Abang was pulled down while trying to get on the end of a cross. A penalty was called on Seattle, giving the Red Bulls another penalty kick.
Bradley Wright-Phillips took this one, looking to avenge his earlier miss. This time, he struck a ball down the middle, but Ousted was there again.
Marsch said of Wright-Phillips taking the second penalty kick, “I was happy to see Bradley step up and have the confidence to take it again. I certainly wasn’t going to pull him off the ball. Ousted makes two good saves, not two of Bradley’s best PK’s by any means, but this stuff can happen sometimes and it’s important as an important guy on the team and a good attacker he finds a way to not let this dig a huge hole into his mentality. He needs to now stay focused and finds way to make it up to his team. This happens at different moments with different players whether it’s Wondolowski at the World Cup or different players that have missed important chances for teams, and it’s important to come back and show you’re a man of character and show that you can handle the tough moments. I have no doubts that Bradley is that kind of man and that he’ll come back and find a way to do that.”
Wright-Phillips said of taking the second penalty kick, “I wanted to take it. I was confident I’d score. The keeper wanted a battle today, I suppose that’s how it goes.”
On What went through his head on the second penalty kick, Wright-Phillips said, “I was just trying to get my team back in the game. If I score that first penalty it’s a different game, and if I don’t miss either it’s a different game. I thought even in the second half, with a man down, I felt like we dominated. It’s a tough one to take, especially missing two penalties.”
Wright-Phillips said of if he’s ever missed two in one match, “Never. I only started taking penalties when I got here last season, so I guess there will be a lot of twists and turns. It’s something I have to deal with, we’ve got another gameWednesday. I guess my team needs me though so I can’t dwell on it. I just have to get over it.”
Vancouver was quiet most of the second half, but showed its ability to strike on the counter in the 76th minute, jumping on a loose ball and sending Octavio Rivero on his way. Rivero found midfielder Kianz Froese in space, and Froese was able to beat Luis Robles one-on-one.
2015 MLS SuperDraft pick Manolo Sanchez subbed on for the ensuing kickoff and immediately injected energy into the offense, along with fellow rookie Abang.
Sanchez started the play that earned the Red Bulls’ goal, playing right-back Chris Duvall wide down the wing. Duvall then spun in a cross for Abang to finish. The goal was Abang’s second of the year in his longest appearance. It was the second career assist for Duvall, and first in 2015.
Sanchez had a chance for glory minutes later, getting the ball in space and charging towards the Vancouver goal. The winger cut to his right across the top of the penalty area and fired a low drive that forced a diving save from Ousted.
Dax McCarty had a chance on the ensuing corner kick. The Red Bulls captain squared up a header, but a well-placed Ousted came up with another save.