After a disappointing 1-6 start, the New York Red Bulls were far from the team that stepped out onto the field against Toronto FC on Saturday night.
The Red Bulls had given up 15 goals in their first seven matches, while only netting five. Since the squad’s thrilling 3-2 victory on April 24 against Orlando City, though, Jesse Marsch’s side has a completely new attitude and their on-field production is speaking volumes about the team’s current state.
As the team heads into the upcoming international break, the Red Bulls sit one point off the Eastern Conference lead, which has had the pace set by the Philadelphia Union with their 20 points in 13 games.
It’s clear that the Red Bulls have their confidence back, particularly with the squad getting healthier by the week, but nobody except maybe the team itself would have expected a turnaround this quickly.
“Yeah, obviously very different than the beginning of the year,” Marsch said following Saturday’s win against TFC. “Truly feel like we’ve put that behind us now, and we’ve made a great push in the last seven games, getting a lot of good performances. Starting to really feel and look like us. So I think we use the hard times to make us better. So obviously very happy with the last couple months.”
It’s easy to say that the Red Bulls are playing better because they’re getting victories, but it’s been the way that they are capturing those wins that has been so impressive as of late.
The biggest piece in the team’s recent upswing is arguably centerback addition Aurelien Collin. Since the Frenchman’s arrival in early May, the Red Bulls backline, which started off inconsistently, has not only steadied itself but stifled opposing attacking.
Even with a three-goal advantage on Saturday, the Red Bulls were forced to change their game plan when Gonzalo Veron was sent off prior to the halftime whistle for his studs-up standing tackle on Marco Delgado.
The Red Bulls faced six shots on target in the second half, including Will Johnson’s penalty kick, but the defense and goalkeeper Luis Robles did not break.
“We referred back to last year against NYCFC when [Matt] Miazga got the red card and we were able to battle it out in the second half,” Robles explained. “Then we referred to Chicago. It’s the type of game where we have to be able to capitalize off of their mistakes and if the mistake doesn’t happen then we have to be solid.
“In the second half we shifted to five in the back. At that point we were pretty solid. There was a few opportunities, a few chances here and there but the guys in the back were incredible. As long as we continue to do that we’re going to be a tough team to break down.”