The Red Bulls will try to set an MLS unbeaten streak record vs. Seattle Sunday. (Keith Furman/Front Row Soccer Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
If you think the Red Bulls are beating their chests about their 18-game MLS regular-season unbeaten streak, guess again.
Yes, they are proud of their accomplishment — they can set the league record with a draw or win at the Seattle Sounders FC Sunday. They hold the record with the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas.
Yet, they know it does not mean as much as winning MLS Cup or advancing in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Three major setbacks have interrupted and tainted their streak — 1-0 and 2-0 defeats in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Montreal Impact and a 2-0 elimination loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the CCL March 2.
“There really hasn’t been much said about that,” right back Sal Zizzo told reporters earlier this week. “There’s been a lot of games in-between that, including the playoffs last year, Champions League. We haven’t come away with the results we would have liked, so we’re not really thinking about a streak because it doesn’t feel like one. Do you know what I mean? Yeah, it’s pretty incredible to look back at what we’ve done. We’re not really focused on that.”
The last league loss the Red Bulls suffered was at Hudson River Derby rival New York City FC, a 2-0 defeat at Yankee Stadium July 3.
Little did anyone realize that a scoreless home draw against the Portland Timbers would kick off the streak July 10.
Head coach Jesse Marsch has said nary a word about the streak.
“I haven’t mentioned it at all,” he said. “I think everyone is aware of it. It’s more about being ready for this match.”
The Red Bulls are undefeated (2-0-0, 6 points) entering Sunday’s 7 p.m. ET encounter against Seattle at CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders (0-1-1, 1) will celebrate their 2016 MLS Cup championship with pregame ceremonies at their home opener. That was something the Red Bulls would have loved to have done at their home opener, a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids last week.
Zizzo knows that CenturyLink will be packed.
“They’re playing at home,” he said. “Home has been good for them, so they’re going to be buzzing.
“We just got to hopefully spoil the party.”
Regardless how the Red Bulls fare in the Pacific Northwest Sunday, Marsch felt his team can make some noise this year and records will take care of themselves.
“I like our team,” he said. Obviously got a good start from a result perspective, but we know that we have a long way to go to be the team that we want to be.
“There’s clarity. That’s one of the best things about a group that has been together for a long time. The way we go about our business here is about creating clarity on the field so guys can go out in a confident way and go after the game because they know what their roles are and how they fit into the team. We’ll continue to push that and hopefully we’ll [break] records, a lot of records we can break here in the near future.”