The Red Bulls huddle at midfield after their 3-1 loss to the LA Galaxy. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — Minutes after the Red Bulls had embarrassed themselves in a home loss to the LA Galaxy Sunday night, head coach Jesse Marsch held a team meeting — at midfield, of all places.
Marsch felt he needed to talk to the team ASAP.
The team huddled together as Marsch gave his beleaguered side his two cents and then some after the 3-1 defeat at Red Bull Arena Sunday night.
“I challenged them,” he said. “I challenged them to stick together and to be more like us. At halftime, I told them that I didn’t recognize what that was. You know, I didn’t recognize — we didn’t look like us. That’s plain and simple.”
The defeat snapped the Red Bulls’ league regular-season home unbeaten streak at 19 games (16-0-3), dating back to a 2-0 setback to Sporting Kansas City April 9, 2016.
This result, however, hurt much more than that match from last season.
“It’s the worst performance since I’ve been here at Red Bull at home, for sure,” Marsch said. “On that side of things, I’m very disappointed and I’m going to look directly at myself and figure out how this can get better.”
This isn’t just another run of the mill Major League Soccer team. This is a team that captured the Supporters Shield in Marsch’s first season in 2015 and then Eastern Conference crown last year.
The Red Bulls hardly resembled those teams Sunday night.
“Every facet of the game was affected by the fact that we were afraid,” Marsch said.
Marsch took blame for the confounding performance, the team’s third successive loss. The Re d Bulls surrendered two goals by Romain Alessandrini in the opening nine minutes and wound up chasing the game the rest of the night.
“I have to take responsibility for this, because to have a team that’s not ready to play from the start, and to play a first half like that where we show no life and no commitment and no belief, you know, I have to look carefully at what I’m doing,” he said.
There was little doubt many Red Bulls were lacking confidence in themselves. They were tentative on the ball and struggled to find their rhythm.
“It’s my job to prepare everyone and to make sure that whenever we play, win, lose or draw, that we are us,” Marsch said. “That falls on me, and I’ve got to figure out — I’ve got to figure out selections. I’ve got to figure out who our guys we can count on, and I’ve got to challenge everyone to now have more self-belief and commitment and understand what it’s going to take for us to be the team we want to be.”
The Red Bulls have less than a week to figure themselves out. They host a hot Toronto FC team here Friday night.
“It’s definitely not a must-win,” he said. “I mean, we’ve already gathered enough points to, you know, feel like the season is all there for us. But what’s the bigger challenge is, this isn’t about points and standings right now. It’s about identity. It’s about making sure that the belief system of who we are, what we are, what we do, you know, that’s — that’s where we’re at right now.”