HARRISON, N.J. — Luis Robles vividly remembered the turning point of the 2016 season. After the New York Red Bulls opened with five losses in their first six games, the team’s veterans stayed on the bus before a match at Colorado and drew the proverbial line in the sand, or snow as it were that cold April night.
That was when they’d be more accountable — to themselves and to the team. And although the Red Bulls fell 2-1 that night to the Rapids, they’d lose just one of their next eight games and ended that season on a 16-game unbeaten streak.
The 26-year-old Homegrown midfielder addressed his team in the locker room and his words resonated deeply in the same room after the match.
“It just felt like the mentality within a group was the right one, something that we’ve been missing since the season has started. And it all started with Sean Davis in the locker room before we stepped out,” Robles said. “The way that he addressed the guys, the way he spoke with confidence. It’s moments like that when Sean and Aaron Long and Tim [Parker], they take this team by the horns, pun intended.”
Robles is the Red Bulls captain, but he had no problem delegating to Davis, the prime candidate to be the club’s captain of the future, as the one to take the lead in the locker room.
“We’re going to be better for it. Because not only the quality guys, they’re great players and they’re the next generation and that generation is not down the road, it’s now,” Robles said. “This is their team. And when you have a guy like Sean who busts his butt every single game, address a team like that people, they respect him. they really breathe it in and I think that really set the tone for tonight.”
There’s no shortage of leaders in the room, especially Robles and Bradley Wright-Phillips. But Danny Royer said Davis, perhaps as a result of being a player who has come up through the Red Bulls system, knows better than most the club’s ethos and the recipe to be successful.
“Sean always finds the right words,” Royer told Pro Soccer USA. “He’s honest in his words, and his sense of Red Bulls philosophy and what it takes to win a game and what it takes to play the way we want to play, he’s definitely one of those guys who knows it the best. And that was his message before the game. And I think everybody could relate on that. It was a really good message.”
Davis said his message was simple — to get back to being the team that has been so hard to beat, especially at Red Bull Arena.
“Have a complete performance and that it’s a race to the first goal,” Davis said. “If we can score a goal, put the game on our terms, it’ll force teams to come out.”
Connor Lade was the one who scored first, a thunderous strike with his left foot to cap a well-worked buildup late in the first half. And while the Red Bulls were fortunate in the final half hour with FC Cincinnati hitting the woodwork three times, they believe it was the type of win they could build on going forward.
“Sean gave a good pregame talk too about it’s a race to the first goal tonight,” Lade said. “Obviously we want to be in the lead of games, we’ve given up a couple early goals, and we kind of dig ourselves a hole. We wanted to get on top tonight and hold it the whole time.”