MLS has this wonderful quality where anything can happen. There is such a degree of competitive balance that any team can rebound from a down year and mount a comeback. This year is going down that path. The first four teams to tank were four of the strongest teams in MLS last year: Portland, Columbus, Seattle and the Red Bulls. Meanwhile, some of the best teams to start the year are the Philadelphia Union, Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids.
Every other team had shown signs of life. Houston may now be at the bottom, but their goal tally is still up there. DC United’s rough start has picked up in their past two games as well.
It left those four teams to make something of their season. This past week, that all managed to happen – all except one.
Columbus finally kicked it into gear and took care of New York City FC by doubling their goal tally in one fell swoop. Meanwhile, Seattle put down a very hot Philadelphia Union, with Jordan Morris finally scoring, and jumped up the table a bit, with a game in hand to jump up even more.
Portland did similar. They won on opening day, but had not won since. That streak ended against a very capable San Jose Earthquakes and suddenly the Timbers look respectable yet again.
The Red Bulls are the only ship in MLS that is still sinking. Everyone else has mounted some sort of hope, some sort of semblance of relevance. Whether it be random 5-0 wins against Dallas or random 4-0 wins against Vancouver, everyone has shown a sign of life.
But the Red Bulls have not. Their plummet continued as they lost again to the Colorado Rapids in the blizzard around Dicks Sporting Goods Park. They were handily put away by the return of Jermaine Jones and despite pulling out a savvy equalizer in the second half, they were unable to secure any points.
The loss makes them the worst team by far in MLS. They have the least goals scored and the most surrendered.
Not long ago I defended Brandon Wright-Phillips and said that he would turn it around and I do think that he has the ability to. The problem now is whether or not the mental damage that this start is having on the team can be turned around quick enough. From Supporter’s Shield to not being able to take points from anyone.
The Red Bulls should have their finger resting on the panic button. Don’t push it just yet, but be ready. Wright-Phillips definitely has what it takes to turn it around, but the longer it gets put off, the more we have to worry if that turn around isn’t farther off than we originally thought.
The Red Bulls have some win-able games coming up. If they can’t pull points from them, we will give our approval to hit the panic button.