With only a three minutes of stoppage time left, it looked as if the New York Red Bulls 3-2 lead would secure their first win since the middle of August. Yet, within the first minute of stoppage time, a D.C. United cross headed into the Red Bulls’ penalty area, and Fidel Escobar turned the ball into the back of his own net. Another set of dropped points for the Red Bulls, who hover just a few points above the red line.
“I just walked in here looking at the stats and it’s the same story,” Jesse Marsch said after the match.
According to March, Red Bulls “outplayed” D.C. United, outshot them 16 to six, and were more dangerous. The Red Bulls, though, just gave “away the most ridiculous goals and that’s not lucky. That’s not good enough.”
Since the team’s last win against Orlando City, the Red Bulls have conceded 12 goals in seven league matches, half of them in the last two games. Many of those goals have been conceded through set pieces, including D.C.’s first, a freekick from Zoltan Stieber in first half stoppage time.
“We looked at a staggering statistic this year that we’ve given up 39 goals, 22 in the run of play and 17 off of set pieces,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said about his team’s defensive woes.
It is a sharp contrast from years past, when the Red Bulls had been, according to Robles, the best team in the league when it comes to defending and scoring on set pieces.
“That’s a bit mystifying when a team like ourselves has quality and talks about it at length,” he added. “We prepare in the right way to defend these dead ball situations, and then it doesn’t go our way, so it just goes to show that we have a lot of work to do and we don’t have a lot of time.”
Robles also said that dead ball situations tend to be an “achilles heel” for the Red Bulls. Robles says he imagines what would happen if the Red Bulls could eliminate just half of the set piece goals conceded this year.
“There’s no use dwelling on things,” said captain Sacha Kljestan. “We just need to learn to be a little bit more mature.”
Marsch also highlighted Escobar’s role on the final goal and in the defense. The defender has yet to keep a clean sheet in the league since joining the club in the summer.
“He’s a good player, but he’s been involved in too many goals,” the coach said. “You could go across our back line and talk about it lately, because we’ve played a lot of games and we gave up too many goals. He’s gotta find a way to clean that up, period.”
Considering the seventh-place Montreal Impact lost on Wednesday, the results worked out in the Red Bulls’ favor, as they sit four points ahead of them. Regardless, Marsch admits that the team has to take care of business.
“It seems like we find ways to literally just give goals away,” Marsch said. “We’re our own worst enemies.”