Polak: Finding Solace In Red Bulls Road Woes

Facts are facts. There is no way to deny their validity. Two facts are most definitely certain with the 2016 version of the New York Red Bulls. They are one of the best teams at home and are also one of the worst on the road. Yet despite their troubles away from Red Bull Arena, the Red Bulls’ are showing enough to prove that they can be successful should they garner a postseason berth.

The numbers at home are beyond impressive for New York. Following their 3-1 victory over the Montreal Impact this past Saturday night, they boast an Eastern Conference best nine wins at Red Bull Arena. No one else has more than seven. The Red Bulls have also earned points in 10 of their 12 games in Harrison, making it one of the most difficult sites for opponents to play. Since losing two of their first three home matches, New York has taken all three points in 10 of their past 11 at Red Bull Arena, including a 3-0 thrashing of Antigua Guatemala FC in Champions League play. Their only exception: A hard-fought, scoreless draw against the defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers.

Unfortunately for New York, the same cannot be said for their road play. They have just one win 14 matches, including their most recent fixture, a 1-1 road draw with Alianza FC on Tuesday night in El Salvador. They have also lost seven games in MLS play, many of which have featured lost leads and frustration with officials. Although the lack of wins is troubling, the Red Bulls have proven to be well past their initial struggles and capable of going on a long postseason run.

When examining the Red Bulls’ road results, they have shown an ability to pick up points even when they haven’t played well enough to win. New York has earned a point four consecutive in road matches since their 2-0 defeat to NYCFC on July 3, their only loss in two seasons against their city rivals. In addition, since dropping five of their first six road matches, the Red Bulls have earned a point in seven of their next 10 away from Red Bull Arena dating back to their 7-0 thrashing of the boys in blue on May 21. With Major League Soccer featuring home-and-home series in the playoffs, New York’s ability to earn at least draws on the road, coupled with their tremendous home success, will likely yield positive postseason results.

An even closer look shows that in the Red Bulls’ three road defeats since May 21, they have scored a goal in two of the three, with July 3 being the lone exception. Why is this important? Let’s say New York falls 2-1 on the road in the first leg of a playoff series and then wins 1-0 at home. With the aggregate goal tally even at two, that away goal would come in handy as the tiebreaker that sees New York advance to the next round. In fact, the Red Bulls have scored at least one away goal in four consecutive road matches and 11 of 16 overall, including US Open Cup and Champions League play.

To be clear, there is no question that the Red Bulls should be disappointed with their lack of wins away from Harrison. They won an Eastern Conference best six road matches in MLS play during the 2015 campaign and earned points in 10. The difficulties they have had in holding early leads and garnering all three has to be concerning to Jesse Marsch and his staff.

However, when breaking down their performances the fact remains that they have played well enough to accrue away goals and earn points more often than not, especially of late. What happened in March and April will not mean as much come November and December. Right now, the Red Bulls are two points out of first place in the East, nine points clear of the final playoff spot and sit atop their table in the Champions League. If this team can continue to build upon their recent road performances and get similar or better results, they will be in a position to go deep into the MLS Cup Playoffs.

That’s a fact.

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