Daniel Royer, pictured celebrating his penalty kick: “We literally have nothing to lose now, so we have to recover now and throw everything that we have in the Toronto game.” (Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — Next stop, Fortress BMO.
The Red Bulls’ task in the second leg of their MLS Eastern Conference semifinals against Toronto RC is a formidable one, if not next to impossible.
Not only do they have to win at BMO Field in Toronto, they have to score at least two goals in the process.
No mean feat.
After all, the Supporters Shield championship registered a 13-1-3 mark at home this past season.
“We are now like the 1980 hockey team times five,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said after his team’s 2-1 defeat by Toronto FC in the opening leg of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals at Red Bull Arena Monday night.
“Well, if we had a big hill to climb before, we’ve got a mountain now.”
Then Marsch turned a bit defiant.
“But so what? That’s what the playoffs are,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be easy. It won’t ever be easy. Obviously we’ve made it even more difficult on ourselves, but whatever. We’re going to go there with — we wanted to have a little bit more of a nothing-to-lose mentality tonight, and I felt we played very tight, and for sure, now we’re going there, we’ve got nothing to lose.
“I know they’re very good at home. I know it’s a very tough place to play. I know the stadium will be sold out. I know they’re the best team in the league, but so what? So what? Let’s go there and go fight for it.”
The Reds are tough at home, but not invincible. They have lost at BMO only once – a 5-3 decision to Canadian rival Montreal Impact Sept. 20. So, it can be done.
“We’ve got to push early,” Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan said. “We need two goals. Getting the first goal will be important. It will tighten things up for them. I would just like us to see us push the game for 90 minutes and if we go down, let’s go down swinging.”
Added midfielder Daniel Royer, who scored the Red Bulls’ lone goal on a penalty kick: “We literally have nothing to lose now, so we have to recover now and throw everything that we have in the Toronto game. There is still a chance and we still believe that.”
Marsch said he plans to look at all options for Sunday’s game, including changing the lineup a big, perhaps utilizing a different formation or even putting super-sub Gonzalo Veron alongside Bradley Wright-Phillips up front.
“All those things will be on the table,” he said. I’ve got to get with my staff, we’re going to have to get to the source of which guys are going to really go out there and give us our best chance, and then what that means from a tactical perspective and how to use those pieces in the best manner.
“Listen, it’s not — like our team has fought so hard all year, and they’re such good young men, and today they let themselves down, right, but it’s my job to make sure that they’re going to not just say that we’re up for it but really be up for it when we get to Toronto. And who knows? If we have a good start and get after the game a little bit, then who knows what can happen?”