Red Bulls need offense to match defensive success after two straight games without a goal

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New York Red Bulls
New York Red Bulls defender Andrés Reyes jumps to play the ball.
amNewYork/Kyle Sweeting

The Red Bulls have gotten plenty of chances in their first two games of the young MLS season. They outshot Nashville on Saturday 8-5 and had three shots on goal. 

Yet, for the second consecutive week, the Red Bulls looked up at the scoreboard and saw a zero next to their name. After 180 minutes of soccer, New York has still not scored its first goal of the year and remains one of just four teams in the 28-team MLS that has yet to find the back of the net. 

“I think I’m looking forward but at the moment, it’s not so easy to score,” Red Bulls coach Gerhard Struber said after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Nashville. “This is the reality. We have to come in better moments. We can see the difference between the friendly games in the preseason and now the competition games. But I’m looking forward.”

New York maintained control of the ball for a large chunk of their home opener, butt Stuber and defenseman Kyle Duncan felt the team lacked speed in their game. 

“I think what we were lacking today was speed in our play,” Duncan said. “The coach talked about it and he talked about coming to the game with a lot of urgency, a lot of intensity. And I feel like that’s where we’re lacking today. It’s pretty easy for the other team to read our plays and stuff.”

The irony in all of this is how well the defense has played to start the year. The Red Bulls Have surrendered just one goal this season — a penalty kick in their 1-0 loss to Orlando — and outside of that they haven’t allowed another shot on goal,

Nashville’s closest chance came when Dax McCarty, a former Red Bulls player, sent a shot over the crossbar in the 24th minute. 

Red Bulls
amNewYork/Kyle Sweeting

New York has benefited from the play of a strong backline, anchored by captain Sean Nealis and Andrés Reyes. They are one of just two teams in MLS through the first two weeks who have allowed just one shot on net. 

“Andrés is playing really well and we got a lot of guys playing well, defensively,” Nealis said. “Christian (Casseres Jr.) and (Frankie Amaya) are working real hard in the midfield there and I think they’re doing a good job defensively. Hopefully, we could kind of just build ourselves offensively even if it’s set piecewise offensively, so it’s something to work on this week and hopefully get the win next week.”

But as good as the defense has been, the Red Bulls will need to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net if they hope to start winning some games going forward. Dante Venzier, who made his Red Bulls debut on Saturday night, said New York needed to be more creative with its offense and not succumb to the pressure. 

“If it doesn’t go or if we don’t succeed it’s okay, we try the next time. we have to be more calm, confident,” Venzier said. “Defensively we’re stable. I would say zero goals in two games, but with the penalty, it’s unfortunately one goal. So at that point, we’re good and now the offense needs to step up a little bit and take our level to another level again.  We’ll work as hard as we can to improve up front.”