The New York Red Bulls are currently on a franchise-best 11-game unbeaten streak, and 13 games unbeaten across all competitions. The ability to win and get results from this many consecutive matches is a testament to head coach Jesse Marsch’s system and the players within the squad.
However, there are elements of this unbeaten streak that are truly unique and have left fans wondering what to make of the team’s MLS Cup chances heading into the playoffs. This past Sunday saw a frustrating habit of losing late leads manifest itself in the normally friendly confines of their home grounds.
Since opening ahead of the 2010 season, the Red Bulls had been 45-0-0 with a two-goal advantage at Red Bull Arena. D.C. United captured the Atlantic Cup and erased the Red Bulls’ lead late in stoppage time to end the game on a 2-2 draw.
We take a look at areas of this current unbeaten streak for New York and what makes it so different.
The New York Red Bulls and a Unique Unbeaten Streak
Since a July 3rd loss away to New York City FC, the Red Bulls have seen four separate two-goal advantages slip from their grasp and end up with only a point to show for their efforts.
Matches against the Philadelphia Union, Los Angeles Galaxy and D.C. United all saw second half collapses in a short span of time in each contest. Important wins on the road are essential for the best possible playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and would have the club in a better position to repeat as Supporters’ Shield champions as well.
One somewhat positive of this trend was the team’s fine form at home, but this past weekend saw the bad habit make its first appearance in Harrison. Marsch has said in the past that the issue appears to be “mental”, and the players are having a hard time staying disciplined late in matches.
With the postseason around the corner, the Red Bulls’ road woes are certainly worrisome.
The fact that New York’s unbeaten streak does not have them at the top of the East is interesting. The Western Conference may have more quality in their sides, but an 11-game unbeaten streak would seem enough to place them higher in the table.
Currently tied for second-place in the East, the Red Bulls will want to ensure that this unbeaten streak stays alive.
The previous best team streak, when the 2000 Metrostars won the East in a three-division format, saw a nine-game unbeaten run that helped to keep them at the top of the standings nearly all year long (Clint Mathis helped a bit too). This consistency kept the squad going right up to the Eastern Conference finals.
Longer streaks by the LA Galaxy (2009) and Real Salt Lake (2010) saw them either top the Western Conference or finish runner-up in the Supporters’ Shield race. What makes the Red Bulls’ streak so different is how difficult it has been for them to make up ground on teams ahead of them.
The effect of the lost leads in matches could have a negative impact on squad confidence moving forward. It was noteworthy to see the normally reserved Bradley Wright-Phillips agitated by the team’s play on Sunday afternoon.
Blown leads, whether on the road or at home, can be extremely costly in the playoffs. If the New York Red Bulls are going to win their first MLS Cup in 2016, Jesse Marsch and his team need to keep the streak alive and find more victories instead of draws along the way.