Brutal Loss To L.A. Sets The Stage For Early Season Must-Win Against MLS-Best Toronto FC On Friday Night

By Peter Schwartz
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Not long after Sunday’s inexplicable performance in a 3-1 home loss to the L.A. Galaxy, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch brought his club together on the field for a meeting. Much of what was said will stay in-house, but the main theme of the chat was the collective feeling of anger and frustration.

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“He was disappointed and we were disappointed as a team,” midfielder Daniel Royer told this week. “It was definitely not what we expected and what we wanted in this game.  We missed the first minutes in this game, so it made it very difficult for us to come back.”

Romain Alessandrini scored goals for the visitors in the 8th and 9th minutes, pushing the Red Bulls well on their way to their third straight loss. To say that they have to turn the page quickly is an understatement as they welcome Major League Soccer-leading Toronto FC to Red Bull Arena on Friday night.

The loss to the Galaxy left the Red Bulls with a 5-6-1 record and 16 points. The result also left a bitter taste in the mouths of the players, but they said they are eager for a chance at redemption.

“It was a short week, so there was not a lot of time to think about the L.A. game,” said Royer, who had played the majority of his professional career in the Bundesliga in his native Austria before joining the Red Bulls as a discovery player last season.

“Right after the game, everyone was unsatisfied and disappointed, but the good thing in soccer is that just a few days later you can make it better again,” he said.

That will be easier said than done against a Toronto club that is 7-1-4 (25 points). It has won six straight matches and holds a three-point lead over Western Conference-leading Sporting KC in the battle for the Supporters’ Shield.

“It’s a difficult game,” Royer admitted. “Toronto is good team and doing really well this season so far. We know what kind of team is coming. We’re not in the best situation now but who knows? Maybe that’s exactly the right team to come.”

Daniel Royer

Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer, left, dribbles past Atlanta United midfielder Julian Gressel during a match on March 5, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

The Red Bulls do have a few things that are trending in their favor.

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— Toronto will be without two important players as forward Sebastian Giovinco is sidelined with a quad strain and defender Nick Hagglund is out with a torn MCL in his right knee.

— Under Marsch, the Red Bulls have also lost three straight games on two other occasions, but bounced back nicely. In 2015, they followed a losing trifecta with a 14-6-1 run to close the season.  Then, in 2016, they lost three in a row early in the season, but went 15-4-9 the rest of the way.

— The Red Bulls are 10-2-1 all-time against Toronto at Red Bull Arena.

Despite seeing their 19-game home match unbeaten streak end on Sunday, the Red Bulls are still very confident when they step onto the pitch in Harrison, New Jersey.

“We had a long period of not losing at (home),” said Royer, who has three goals and an assist this season. “But we still know that it’s still difficult for other teams to come to Red Bull Arena and win against us.”

With plenty of new faces and younger players being asked to take on huge responsibilities, the Red Bulls are still working to find that winning formula and they’re hoping it comes sooner rather than later. There’s still a long way to go and the Red Bulls are confident that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Yeah, there’s definitely enough time,” Royer said. “Some players have to step up. I think as a whole team, we’ve had some ups and downs this season so far. Everybody has to perform better. I’m convinced that we are getting there.”

Getting to where they want to be is taking some time and the struggles are certainly frustrating, but over the last couple of years, the Red Bulls have been able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when things have gone awry.

This season, that process will start with a match against Toronto FC, the best team in the league.

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Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @NewYorkRedBulls