Chris Armas: “Five days for the pro players that we have, the fitness levels that we know we have, that factor certainly in my opinion was not the difference tonight.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

ORLANDO – For the second consecutive game at the MLS Is Back Tournament, Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas used the same Starting XI as he did in the 1-0 win over Atlanta United.

Thursday night’s affair did not come close to working out as in the team’s tournament opener at the ESPN Wide World of Sports as the Red Bulls played well below par in a 2-0 defeat to Columbus Crew SC Thursday night.

Yet, Armas defended his decision to use the lineups.

“I think the guys were recovered,” he said. “Five days for the pro players that we have, the fitness levels that we know we have, that factor certainly in my opinion was not the difference tonight. We had a bunch of guys that played in Game One that played limited minutes, so we will look back and I won’t second guess that one. I think we let ourselves down in other ways. Columbus is a good team and we have to understand that in real games, the margins are thin. We’ll be better for it, we’ll look hard at it and get better as we go.”

Armas also defender his team’s 4-2-2-2 formation, which did not do the job against Columbus.

I think with the formation we’re playing now it gives us a lot of advantages when the ball turns over,” he said. “It gives us a lot of options forward, gets us more numbers in the box but the reality is we have to make the most of those transition moments.”

He sounded like a coach who needed to teach his team the basics.

“We have to understand when to slow down, when to keep the ball, when to go for a big through ball, when to keep it and slow the game down and control the rhythm of the game,” Armas said. “I think that’s something that we’re continuing to work on. Of course, we love to go for it as quick as possible, but at the same time, when you’re absorbing a lot of pressure, sometimes we have to be a little bit smarter in controlling the rhythm of the game. I think that’s something that we’re always trying to work on, but it’s in our DNA to play quickly and play fast and I think that the more we can get that balance right, the more dangerous we can be. But it is something that we look at a lot and something that we’re always working on.”

Armas had to harken back to the Atlanta game to defend himself and the team’s poor showing on Thursday night. The Red Bulls did not place a shot on target for the first time in seven years.

“First of all, I think about the Atlanta game and I think we created some big chances and maybe they weren’t the most quantity wise but they were big chances,” he said. “I think that our finishing could have been sharper but we at least put ourselves in good spots. Tonight, we didn’t create enough until late in the game. That’s disappointing. We need to give ourselves a chance to get on the board to put pressure on them from an offensive standpoint and that’s something that we’re going to have to take a look at.

He also defended his team’s physical fitness.

“In terms of our physical fitness levels, this is something that every team is on this even playing field and there’s no excuses,” Armas said. “We know the demands of our style of play, we know that it was going to be hot here. We prepared, in my opinion, as well as we could. When we were back home, we were playing a lot of intra-squad scrimmages, did a lot of fitness and tonight I think it was more mental than anything. I think that one of the biggest lessons that we have to take with some guys coming into the lineup, that haven’t played as much, is that it’s just a mentality thing from each and every guy in the team. We need every guy to be up for the game, up for the demands to meet the demands. Tonight we didn’t do that. We have to look at each and every guy and we know we could be much better.”