NY Red Bulls search for ways to preserve leads

Goalkeeper Luis Robles (pictured) has made two appearances in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League for the New York Red Bulls. (Photo: Mexsport)


TORONTO -- If one weakness has plagued the New York Red Bulls since the beginning of July, it has been their inability to hold onto two-goal leads and finish matches.

They have enjoyed 2-0 advantages on five occasions in Major League Soccer and five times they have settled for draws.

The fifth occasion came Sunday, when the Red Bulls saw leads of 2-0 and 3-1 slip away, before registering a 3-3 draw at Toronto FC. That result denied them an opportunity to jump over the Canadian side and move atop the Eastern Conference.

New York (2W-1D-0L, 7 points) has not experienced such problems in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, holding onto Group F leads in wins over Antigua GFC (3-0 home win on August 3) and Alianza (1-0 home win on September 15).

"We seem to be talking about this now too frequently," remarked goalkeeper Luis Robles, who made a big stop in the 61st minute against Alianza. "We were good for 70 minutes up 3-1 until we added the fifth defender.

"When we played our game they had no answer for us. We created chances, put them constantly under pressure. When we changed tactically maybe our mindset wasn't right. In theory, when we go five in the back, we should have more control of things, but every time the ball came we didn't look to play anymore, just kicked the ball out. In the final 10 minutes we were gassed. It was difficult."

Striker Bradley Wright-Phillips bagged a brace to take his league-leading 20 goals, becoming the first MLS player to reach that milestone twice. He scored in his sixth consecutive league match.

"Bradley's been phenomenal for us," said midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who scored the 90th-minute game-winner against Alianza (0-2-1, 2 points) and tops MLS with 16 assists.

Robles added: "He (Wright-Phillips) doesn't deserve these sorts of results. We couldn't be half the team without the goals he puts in and the results we've gotten these last three seasons. I don't think he gets the just credit. He means more to this team than anyone in this league."

The Red Bulls host the Impact de Montreal on Saturday, before visiting Antigua (0-1-1, 1) on September 27 in the SCCL, needing only a draw to clinch a quarterfinal berth.