- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

HARRISON, N.J. (AP) - After a horrible start to the season, the New York Red Bulls are beginning to resemble the team that had the MLS’s best regular-season record last season.

With a win over Chicago on Wednesday night, the defending Supporters’ Shield winners have posted a 3-1-1 record in their past five games.

It follows a confusing start in which the team lost six of seven games despite having returned roughly the same team, with the big exception being defender Matt Miazga.

Not only were the Red Bulls losing, but they were being beaten in games in which they seemed to have the better of the play.

The problem was scoring. New York was shut out in five of its first six games.

Goalkeeper Luis Robles laughed when asked whether he wondered what the heck was happening at the start of the season.

“I’d be lying to you if I said we didn’t,” Robles said. “We had a great preseason. We had a lot of guys from last year and the confidence was very high with what we were able to accomplish.

“Maybe that sort of mentality manifested a bit of complacency, and it was that complacency that put us in the spot that we’re at right now.”

What might have changed was that the Red Bulls discovered that nothing replaces hard work. It was the key to their success last season when they posted an 18-10-6 mark and a league-best plus-19 goal differential.

The 18 wins were a franchise record.

Midfielder Lloyd Sam said the team held a little meeting after the bad start.

“We had a meeting five games ago about scratching the rest of the season and starting now,” Sam said. “It’s been a lot different apart from the last game with DC (a 2-0 loss). It’s been different. Hopefully, it can continue like that.”

Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said the 1-0 win over Chicago marked the first time this season his team was able to grind out a win in a tough game. The Fire packed their zone and seemed content to play long balls all game trying to catch New York off guard.

At worst, they would get a tie.

New York forced a mistake in the second half and turned it into a goal.

Marsch said that he isn’t taking anything for granted after the recent run.

“We’re going to have to grind out a lot of games this year, a lot more than we did last year,” he said.

“But even when I go through last year, there were a lot of moments where, yeah, we had some quality and scored some goals, but we had to battle and fight and claw our way through every week and that’s what this league is.”

With a 4-7-1 record through 12 games, the Red Bulls are back in the playoff picture in the weak Eastern Conference. There are 22 games left in the regular season to get things right.

“We’re not back to last year yet, but we’re on our way,” forward Bradley Wright-Phillips said. “We turned a little corner. We’re getting results and it seems good. The last five games seem good.”


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