The New York Red Bulls are red hot right now and Bradley Wright-Philips is playing on another level. So, a 2-0 victory for NYRB over DC United at Red Bulls Arena is disappointing but all things considered not shocking. We all knew the match up was going to be difficult but I find the quotes coming out of the locker room post game to be quite disturbing.
Rolfe told MLSsoccer.com “We lost confidence, lost energy, stopped believing in each other.”
Really, now? After a terrific bounce back season that ended with United as the top club in the East, 45 minutes into the first playoff match and they have lost confidence? New York was playing their third game in seven days, DC had the previous week off and DC were the ones to lose energy? Something is not right here.
If this sentiment was only held by Rolfe, it would be easy to chalk it up to just post game emotion but both head coach Ben Olsen and Chris Pontius seemed to share in the feeling that the team just was shaken by the way the Red Bulls played. Olsen was quoted by MLSsoccer.com as saying NYRB was “the first good team we’ve played in awhile.” With Pontius also adding “We’ve had some off games and we weren’t punished for them. We got punished tonight….and that’s not something that had been happening.”
It is the playoff and DC United was surprised they were playing a good team? This makes no sense. They lost confidence and energy because they were no longer playing lesser opponents? It is far easier to accept being beaten by a better team but to hear this is just bothersome.
Forward Fabian Espindola added to the MLSsoccer.com piece “We just didn’t rise to the occasion.”
To me that really should be unacceptable. A loss is one thing, anything can happen and that is understandable. To be unprepared or surprised by an opponent you have had an entire week to watch and study is a different story all together. That is simply laziness or absolute arrogance. Neither should be coming from any team whose goal is to win a championship.
It is no secret that dedication is a necessary ingredient in the championship formula and a dedicated team puts in the work off the field to be ready for what happens on the field.
For all the talk of coach of the year nominations, Ben Olsen should have had his team ready. That is his job. It is the job of the players to go out and perform but it is the coach’s job to see that they are ready. The general consensus from the DC United locker room post game seemed to be that they were not ready for the magnitude of the playoffs nor the pressure coming from the Red Bulls.
So, now what hope do the faithful DC United fans have that this week the players and coaches will put in the work and prepare properly to overcome the giant deficit the team faces in the second leg of the match up? Down two goals, with away goals being the tie break this year, DC United has to win by a three goal margin to advance.
DC United has scored at least three goals in a game 7 times this season, last doing so on October 14th against Houston, but that is an awful lot to ask for when facing elimination. Also, just getting three goals will only be adequate if Bill Hamid is able to maintain a clean sheet. While I do believe Hamid to be one of the top goal keepers in MLS, keeping Wright-Philips off the score sheet is nearly impossible these days.
It is just a huge hole that DC United face when NYRB comes to RFK on November 8th and I am disappointed by the cause of it. It was clear that the effort coming from the team in the final month and half of the season was not at the same level from early in the season but there were always the excuses of resting players and preparing for the final push and playoffs. Well, the playoffs are here and the effort was not for a full 90 minutes.
Hopefully, the effort will be there on Saturday but unfortunately, it might already be too late. It would be such a regrettable end to an outstanding season to see the club eliminated from the playoffs with a whimper.