Sometimes really good.
But never good enough.
Such is the repetitive (and maddening) mantra of the Red Bulls — painfully illustrated across 90 minutes of their 0-0 CONCACAF Champions League semifinal match against Chivas Guadalajara Tuesday night at Red Bull Arena, where the Red Bulls were eliminated 1-0 on aggregate as a result of a 1-0 loss in Mexico last week.
The Red Bulls, frantically pressing in the Chivas side of the field, so thoroughly dominated Chivas it was stunning they were unable to score a goal. They outshot Chivas 20-1, including 9-0 in shots on goal.
But Chivas, which scored the only goal of the series on a Tyler Adams midfield giveaway in the match in Mexico, packed its defense on the back third and somehow staved off the furious Red Bulls’ onslaught.
Tuesday night’s match represented a painful microcosm of the Red Bulls’ existence — one that’s littered with too many postseason near-miss disappointments to list and a trophy case devoid of a single cup, MLS or otherwise. Their most recent close-call tease was getting to the U.S. Open Cup final in Kansas City after a great run last year and losing.
“It’s getting very old,’’ Red Bulls keeper and captain Luis Robles said.
After Tuesday’s match, Robles and striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, two of the veterans on the team whose lockers are adjacent to each other, shared an honest and sobering moment in the quiet of the postgame locker room.
“Bradley said to me, ‘Hey, we’ve got to stop having this feeling,’ ’’ Robles said. “At the end of the day, there is a hump that we can’t seem to get over. We want to do this for the organization, we want to do this for our fans and we want to do this for ourselves.’’
The Red Bulls had advanced to this semifinal by beating Olimpia from Honduras and Tijuana of Liga MX, and Tuesday was a chance to advance to yet another prestigious final for a chance to finally win a cup. Robles lamented how “difficult it is to digest’’ that the Red Bulls allowed just three goals in the six games they played in the tournament.
Their scoring chances were plenty, particularly in the first half, when Florian Valot’s 10th-minute header was just tipped over the crossbar and Daniel Royer had a low pass slip just across the face of goal in the 18th minute, barely missing the boot of Wright-Phillips at the far post.
In the second half, the Red Bulls will lament a late header by Aaron Long that just missed and a rocket off the right foot of Derrick Etienne that zipped just over the crossbar.
“No goal,’’ Wright-Phillips said. “There was no goal. Twenty shots, it doesn’t matter. I’d rather have one [shot] and score. I don’t want to be too negative on the performance because it was a good performance, but we’ve just got to create more and get more clear-cut chances.”
Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch called it “almost impossible’’ that his team failed to score.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow right now,’’ Marsch said. “We had our hopes very high that we can push it over the hump and make a run at this all the way to the end. We accomplished almost everything we wanted to accomplish except finding a way to get the goal. It’s one mistake back at Guadalajara (Adams’ giveaway) that cost us the series, and really for it to come down to that one play, it’s incredible.’’
Chivas coach Matias Jesus Almeyda was so impressed with that he saw from the Red Bulls in the first leg of the series, he said he “congratulated’’ Marsch before the match.
“Their style of play is very difficult and very dynamic,’’ Almeyda said. “That’s why I congratulated Jesse before and after the game. Their style is very European. I respect them.’’
Respect, though, isn’t what the Red Bulls are seeking. A cup of some sort is all that matters to this starved club, which has two MLS Supporters Shields and no cups in its trophy case.
Now, though, the Red Bulls must refocus themselves on MLS league play, and they will have to do that quickly, with a 1 p.m. home match against Montreal on Saturday.
“We’ve got to kind of get ourselves into mode for the season and Saturday can’t be a game where we feel sorry for ourselves and come out and play flat,’’ Marsch said.
“I don’t like this feeling I’ve got the last few years,’’ Wright-Phillips said. “It sucks, but when we play on the weekend we’ll have to dust ourselves off and be ready to perform.”