Columbus Crew SC is dropping points like they are too hot to hold.Some fans are getting restless.Some are keeping the faith.Some are just turning off their TVs because their black and gold hearts can’t take it any more.
Crew SC continued their point-dropping trend in Atlanta this past Saturday.Dropping a possible point by allowing Atlanta United to score two goals after tying up the game.Ending the game with a score of 3-1 Atlanta.
I couldn’t bring myself to watch another game where the wheels came off.Nor could I bring myself to write about it, so I decided to do a brief look back at the season’s point dropping debacles (where we had a lead or a tie and gave it away) and where we are compared to where we could have been.
–March 4th against Chicago Fire
Crew SC has the lead in the 17’ and loses the lead in the 73’.They end in a 1-1 tie.Crew SC gives up 2 points.
–April 29th against NYCFC
Crew SC goes into the lead in the 49’ and gives it away in the 64’.They lose 3-2.Crew SC gives up 3 points.
–May 10th against Toronto FC
Crew SC scores in the 28’ and drops the lead in the 81’.They lose 2-1. Crew SC gives up 3 points.
–June 3rd against Colorado Rapids
Columbus scores in the 61’, and we lost the lead in the 80’.They lose 2-1. Crew SC gives up 3 points.
–June 17th against Atlanta
Crew SC tied it up in the 26’ and then lost the draw in the 67’.They lose 3-1. Crew SC gives up a point.
Columbus Crew SC currently sits 6th in the East with 22 points and a game in hand over most teams in the East.If we gained all the points I listed above instead of dropping them, we would have 12 more points, and we would be at the top of the Eastern Conference with 34 points.We would also be on the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings.In reality, I know it isn’t possible to win every one of those games, but even if Crew SC had held on to some points with ties, we would be in a much better position than we are now.
The majority of these give-aways are happening in the 70’ or later. Is this due to physical or mental fatigue?Is it the way we are using substitutions?Is it at this point in the game where we need to be making some tactical shifts?
I don’t know the answer, but Crew SC better discover it soon if they want to find the magic from the beginning of the season and soothe the hearts of their fans.
Late goals are the demise of Philadelphia Union. Out of the nineteen goals the Union has conceded in the regular season, twelve of them have been in the second half. Bradley Wright-Phillips capitalized on the red card given to Derrick Jones in the 53rd minute of the game to tidy up the match with two goals. Was it straight red card worthy? I would disagree, but that’s not exactly the problem to focus on. If anything, the red card gave us the lens to focus on the real issue.
Is it creating chances? Is it defending our goal? Is it our persistent gap in the midfield? These questions have been percolating in the fan base for a long while. No one has a concrete solution and no one can settle on one answer (because there are multiple.) Management tells fans to be patient because change is a-coming and the team is building. At this point, all we’re building is sandcastles. It’s understandable to invest in the academy, in home-grown players that could be the future of the team, but the fact of the matter is we’ve been sitting for seven years on the promise of the future.
One more year of waiting isn’t going to make a difference, if the Union can’t see where the problem lies.
Yes, the back line isn’t perfect; our CBs need to figure out fluidity, and the combinations currently being used aren’t foolproof.
Yes, the midfield is lacking a playmaker, an attacking mid that can not only help pass but create more chances, give vision to more offensive plays.
If the Union wants to build a bridge to the future, there’s got to be traffic on that bridge for it to be useful. In this case, traffic is getting the money to spend on players for these ‘interim’ seasons. Philadelphia is a small team playing in a league that’s outpacing them every year they stick to building up.
Don’t get me wrong, the Union have done some great things with what they have. There have been ups and downs but in the past five years, Philadelphia seems to sputter and stop in the middle of the pack. The middling status isn’t going to be sufficient enough as the league grows, as talent is fielded from international waters, and the Union has nothing to offer. I’m not an advocate of buying superstars for the sake of it, but I am an advocate of commitment. There’s a certain commitment to being in Philadelphia, to watching games like these and wondering if it’ll ever change.
There is great talent in the rookies we have playing (Jack Elliott, Marcus Epps, and Derrick Jones) and the B team in Bethlehem Steel. The problem with always looking to the future is neglecting the now. Philadelphia Union has to pick a direction and once they do, commit to it.
Next week: another rivalry game against DC United who are at the bottom of the table. For the sake of the home fans, Philadelphia will try to snap this three game losing streak. Will they succeed? I hope so. The last time the Union faced DC was at RFK with a lot of firsts on the scoreboard ending in a four-goal win.
Happy Father’s Day, everybody. After spending my midday watching one of my favorite players of all time (my 9-year-old) in his last game of the season, I made it home just in time to watch the New York Red Bulls (7-7-2, 23 points) take on the Philadelphia Union (4-7-4, 16 points). Let me state for the record: I do NOT believe this matchup qualifies as a rivalry. If anything, RBNY fans seem indifferent towards Philly. That’s understandably odd, since the NY/Philly rivalry is common across other sports. But between DC United and NYCFC, there’s just no room for more animosity.
Panamanian International Michael Amir Murillo is back, as well as Jamaican International Kemar Lawrence, who was under the weather and didn’t make the Starting XI. With the heat and humidity, MLS allowed for hydration breaks during the match.
A key for RBNY was to contain attacking midfielder Chris Pontius, who has scored more goals against the Red Bulls than any individual opponent. They also had to look out for CJ Sapong, who scored a hat trick in the last meeting of these sides. A major obstacle for the team is that while the Red Bulls go 1v1, the Union seem able to double- or triple-team attackers. Red Bulls have no choice but to play the ball into traffic, which prevents them from finishing their attack. All too often, striker Bradley Wright-Phillips ends up behind the defenders as teammates Alex Muyl and Felipe cross the ball towards him. Additionally, RBNY had made great progress in years past on their set pieces, but it just doesn’t yield any results this season. There is an implication that some variety is in order: Captain Sacha Kljestan steps up for most free kicks and corners.
As Murillo gets an increasing number of starts, he is clearly showing the talent that makes him a Panamanian international. Without Kemar on the left, the ball is played up the right channel, and Murillo owns that entire space.
In the 22nd minute, Pontius proved once again how dangerous he can be; however, RBNY goalkeeper Luis Robles got a hand on a ball in his 156th consecutive appearance (a previous report by yours truly implied his streak was over when he did not appear in the Open Cup match vs NYCFC—his record is only for regular league matches). A call of offside on the subsequent corner kick caused a Union goal to be called back.
Kemar Lawrence comes in at the start of the 2nd half for Aaron Long, who rolled his ankle and could not continue. Knowing he was unwell, this development was disconcerting, but Lawrence quickly showed that he was feeling fine. Then the advantage increased: Union midfielder Derrick Jones received a straight red in the 53rd minute for a dangerous foul on Felipe, who is the most fouled player in the league. Unfortunately, RBNY could make no progress for more than 30 minutes of play against a team of 10.
Argentinian midfielder Gonzalo Veron was subbed in for Daniel Royer (84′). He doesn’t get many minutes, and it’s not clear why. Especially when he clearly changes the game. He created a chance almost immediately after coming on, but nothing came of it until the 87th minute, when BWP *finally* got in front of defenders and scored, ending a 524-minute goalless streak on the road). Then came an almost carbon-copy goal from BWP in the 92nd minute. Veron was a factor in both goals. Sounds like he’s a real game-changer…
In more pressing matters, the next installment of the Hudson River Derby will be played against NYCFC at Red Bull Arena this coming Saturday. As for the Union, they come back to RBA on June 28th for the Round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt Open Cup. I’d like to see more of what I’ve been seeing.
It’s great that it was, considering NYCFC came away with three crucial points to propel them to third place in the Eastern Conference and overall, but at the end of the day it really should not have continued past half-time. It poured buckets on Yankee Stadium, and the pitch more resembled a small lake than anything else. Players were kicking up waves of water when they went for the ball, which often skidded to a stop long before it reached its destination. At one point is was said that the match would be suspended if the ball stopped moving entirely.
Which… happened. And yet the match continued! Whatever, I guess. Let the water ballet commence.
Both teams had difficulty acclimating to the conditions, which made for a match that was somehow both extremely sloppy and woefully boring to watch. Aside from the slow-motion loping across the pitch that led to Cristian Roldan‘s goal, very little in the first half stood out. NYCFC’s best (read: least awful) chance came during stoppage time, when David Villa pinged the ball off the crossbar.
There was some concern bubbling up that it would be another one of Those Matches for NYCFC, coming hot off the heels of the U.S. Open Cup loss to the New York Red Bulls. Missed chances, deflections off the post, and bad luck compounding on top of awful weather. Nobody wanted to see that again. We came to be entertained.
Villa heard the call, come on New York, and he responded in kind.
Debate all you want about NYCFC’s equalizer, which came off a penalty call early on in the second half. Contention over referee decisions is the most boring part of football to me. The only hill I’ll die on is that Villa wasn’t diving — in fact, he clearly gets up and keeps going for the ball after he gets knocked down. Which, you know. Kind of defeats the purpose of a dive. He’s grown a lot since he was going for Olympic gold in diving back at FC Barcelona, guys. He isn’t that guy anymore. (Thank god. I hated that guy.)
But nobody can deny the majesty that was Villa’s second goal of the night. Jack Harrison was at his Jack Harrisonest, coolly fighting off Seattle Sounders FC defenders to create space where no space previously existed, and when he sent the ball across the face of the goal, an entirely unmarked Villa was there to chip it in.
I find it funny that teams don’t mark Villa every second of every game. He’s the greatest DP in the history of the league, guys. If you don’t want to mark him, that’s fine, more goals for us — but it makes you look pretty foolish when he’s consistently wide open.
Regardless, that sealed the deal for NYCFC. Ugo attempted to net a third toward the end of the match, but after a great save from Stefan Frei, the ball ping-ponged about in the box to no result. Chad Marshall had Seattle’s best attempt at a final equalizer in the very last seconds of the game, but it wasn’t meant to be. After Villa’s second goal, the clouds broke over Yankee Stadium and the sun shone down on the boys in blue, weak but insistent. A sign, surely, that things were meant to go their way.
David Villa now has over fifty goals for NYCFC, and you can watch them all here. Can you pick a favorite? I can’t. Every little thing he does is magic. (Also a cool stat: He’s never gone longer than a playable month without scoring since NYCFC began. What a guy.)
I’ve seen conflicting reports on the length of Alex Ring‘s contract with NYCFC, but whether it’s one year or two years, here’s my suggestion: Extend it for five more and keep him forever and never ever let him leave. Despite Villa’s brace, Ring was my Man of the Match against Seattle. I don’t even know how many duels he won. At some point it feels futile to keep count.
Alexander Callens is currently my favorite NYCFC player on social media. Why? That boy loves Dragon Ball Z. He loves it. And now he’s graduated from snapping himself drawing watching DBZ episodes and drawing DBZ characters to posting DBZ fanart of himself. I’m so endeared, it’s absurd.
(Disclaimer about how you could not pay me enough to care an iota about either of the US NTs goes here, and how writing about MLS does nothing to change that.) T-Mac and Sean Johnson have been named for the Gold Cup provisional squad! Who knows if they will make the final cut or not. It’s an honor just to be nominated.
A bit preemptive, but in July I’ll be guesting on the hilarious Blue Balls podcast! Gaby Kirschner guested on their most recent episode and it’s my favorite so far. If you’re a NYCFC fan, please give them a listen!
Next week is the Hudson River Derby (again?) at Red Bull Arena (again??) and… yours truly will be MIA due to moving house. But fear not! We do have Sylvana over in the NYRB section, who I’m sure will do a bang-up job writing about the match no matter what color New York ends up being next weekend.
I’d pay NBC Sports anchor Rebecca Lowe five bucks to record the words “Hudson River Derby.”
I was in the press box for this New York matchup. The press access is a completely different experience than any I’ve had at Red Bull Arena. The only rule was that I couldn’t be a fan– business casual dress, no fan gear, no asking for autographs or selfies. A fair trade for the view. There was food and drink available, as well as a workspace for taking notes during the game. I fully enjoyed the game from my unique vantage point, and I look forward to having the opportunity to visit the press box again.
The New York Red Bulls (6-7-2, 20 points) took on NYCFC (7-5-3, 24 points) in the Lamar Hunt Open Cup, a tournament open to professional and amateur soccer clubs throughout the US. It’s a time for Cinderella stories (like Christos FC and the LA Wolves, coached by US Soccer Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda), but it’s also an opportunity to get in some extra battles between regional rivals.
There was no doubt this game was going to be chippy. I don’t think the fans would have it any other way. Having a colleague who is the official reporter for NYCFC, I can appreciate a healthy amount of banter. This is not the first time I have been to Red Bull Arena for a matchup against NYCFC. It was electric even then, the hottest day of summer 2016. But this was a much more comfortable evening in more ways than one. Gathering up my gumption, I applied for a media pass and got approved. So, on a much cooler evening, I got to see the game from the press box just above the Red Bulls bench.
Biggest news of the evening is the end of the Iron Man streak: Goalkeeper Luis Robles did not take his place in goal after 155 straight matches. Ryan Meara, GK for the USL-trophy winning RBNYII, took his place in the net. While he had his work cut out for him, Meara was up for the challenge, making 3 saves throughout the game. Most notably was in the 16th minute, when NYC midfielder Tommy McNamara nailed a shot at Meara, who caught enough of it to send it bouncing off the crossbar and the ground a couple of times before getting cleared. I can’t help but wonder if the moment will be used in the argument for VAR. Then in the 40th minute, NYC striker hit the far post and Meara grabbed the ball as it bounced out again. The goal frame proved a formidable member of the RBNY defense.
During the entire first half, RBNY was capable of breaking up the counterattack but they were subsequently running more than playing (a common complaint in MLS).
After a scoreless first half, Dani Royer was subbed in for Grella at kickoff for the 2nd half. The expected chippiness of the rivalry continued to grow, with a total of 29 fouls committed by both sides.
Tyler Adams, fresh off his run with USMNT U20s, continues to amaze in the defense. Adams’ frustration was visibly increasing in the attacking third. From my vantage point, I could see what Adams was trying to create, but his teammates just weren’t cooperating.
Finally, the stalemate was broken by a goal in the 67th minute from Royer following an assist from forward Bradley Wright-Phillips. BWP lured NYC GK Sean Johnson off his line and allowed Royer to tuck it home. RBNY were able to hang onto that lead for the rest of the match and advance to the Round of 16, where they will face the Philadelphia Union. As for NYC, they’ll be back for league play on the 24th, the game following RBNY’s next league match on Sunday the 18th, against…. the Philadelphia Union.
As I mentioned in my getting to know me post, my first match watching the Philadelphia Union was an Open Cup match, so I get inordinately excited to watch the boys in blue in this tournament. Wednesday’s match against the Harrisburg City Islanders was an expected win with ample minutes for some fresh faces.
Andre Blake was still on duty with the Jamaican national team, so the starting goalie for the night was John McCarthy, who would be very familiar with the City Islanders through his time with the Union’s USL side: Bethlehem Steel. Haris Medunjanin continued to wear the captain’s armband through the absence of Alejandro Bedoya (recovering from a tweak during international play with the U.S.) Up top, Jay Simpson, CJ Sapong and Marcus Epps took care of the offense. It was Epps’ first start for the Union and he did an excellent job to connect with Derrick Jones up the right side of the field.
Keegan Rosenberry got a start as Ray Gaddis was resting on the bench and Josh Yaro got his first start of the season for the Union after a long injury setback. Giliano Wijnaldum took over as leftback for Fabinho and Roland Alberg was back in the midfield to help Haris Medunjanin and Derrick Jones deliver the ball.
The Union goals came early with a distance shot from Derrick Jones that was unable to be stopped by Harrisburg’s Sean Lewis. Simpson recorded his first assist with Jones’ goal and his second by cutting across the box and finding Sapong, who had no problem getting the ball into the back of the net.
Harrisburg wasn’t sitting on their hands though, as Johnny Mendoza helped the USL team get one back in the 37th minute of play. The defensive breakdown from a counter isn’t exactly a surprising move by the Union, but something tells me the switch of Jack Elliott to work with Wijnaldum on the left contributed to the mistak
While the Union’s defense still needs some experimenting, the attack prospered with the new combination of Simpson, Sapong, and rookie Marcus Epps. Epps got the third goal for Philadelphia just minutes into the second half with a cheeky toe-in past Lewis for his career first. Simpson had some good looks on goal without any luck, but I think his awareness of the space in the final third along with helping with giving the other’s team defense someone else to worry about will be key for the rest of Philadelphia’s season.
Another stand out player in this game for me was Derrick Jones working with Haris Medunjanin in the midfield. It was a different role for Jones, more fluidity in his responsibilities unlike what we’ve seen from him previously. I would argue we saw more of what Jones could bring to the table beyond defensive capabilities. With Bedoya still off the roster, Medunjanin and Jones had to juggle around the number 8 position and their usual duties. Jones had a high passing accuracy along with a couple of clearances that helped keep the game in the Union’s favor.
John McCarthy also pulled off some great saves to keep the scoreline 3-1 when Mendoza’s cross landed at Pedro Ribeiro’s feet in the box. Philadelphia also had a bit of luck when a rebounded header from Josh Grosh hit the crossbar. McCarthy had six saves in the game and most of those came in the second half as Harrisburg wasn’t willing to leave Talen without a fight.
The Union suffered a 2-1 loss in New York before the international break at the hands of NYCFC and this weekend, the New York Red Bulls come to Talen fresh off of their USOC win against NYC. This will be the second game against the NYRB in the season. Their last meet-up was in May, when CJ Sapong got a hattrick and the Union broke their winless streak. Philadelphia will also meet the Red Bulls for the next round of the Open Cup on June 28th.
My prediction: We’ll really make that rivalry label stick and get the win at home.
Honesty is my only policy, so let me start this as honestly as possible: I just don’t care about the U.S. Open Cup.
Is that a side effect of New York City FC never making it past the first game? Probably. But even if they did manage to make the third time the charm and pull through, I can all but entirely guarantee I still wouldn’t care. Cups don’t have to feel like afterthoughts to leagues — the Coppa Italia sure isn’t — but this one absolutely does. It isn’t enthralling, it isn’t interesting, and if clubs themselves don’t care, why should I?
But here we are. And to their credit, NYCFC did care this time. Patrick Vieira put out a full-force starting eleven, and the New York Red Bulls responded in kind. Looking at the lineups, you could easily mistake it for a derby in the league. (By the way, that’s in a week and a half.) So that’s nice! Great to see both teams taking the Cup seriously!
That’s about where the great things end.
The boys in blue found themselves victims of utterly terrible luck. Early on in the first half, David Villa delivered an inch-perfect pass that landed gracefully at the feet of an unmarked Tommy McNamara. T-Mac wound up, T-Mac kicked, T-Mac somehow managed to ping the ball off the crossbar, then the ground, then the crossbar again, then the ground again. A perfect vertical arc that kept the ball squarely out of the net.
From that point on, it was fated to be that kind of game. As the first half was dying down, Villa’s otherwise brilliant shot on goal deflected off the post and went straight into Ryan Meara‘s arms. At the other end of the pitch, the Red Bulls did their fair share of testing NYCFC as well. Sean Johnson made several stunning saves, and all told, it was a strong showing from both sides over those first forty-five minutes.
Then Maxi Moralez went down with an injury before the break, and things rapidly fell apart.
There’s not much that can be said about the second half. With John Stertzer coming in to replace Maxi (and only lasting twenty weak minutes before getting subbed off himself) the midfield couldn’t connect, and NYCFC were pinned back in their own half more often than not. It was only a matter of time before the Red Bulls beat them back, and god, did they ever.
In typical gutsy fashion, Johnson came off his line to deny Bradley Wright-Phillips, leaving an open goal that Daniel Royer capitalized on. Though we could all feel a Red Bulls goal coming, I wish it hadn’t been that kind of goal. It was embarrassing to be caught with an empty net, and what little Frédéric Brillant did to try to defend the line in Johnson’s stead was… well, too little by far.
Losing to the Red Bulls is familiar in the worst way. But, you know… It’s the Open Cup. Who cares?
Get it together for the derby, boys. Hit them where it really counts.
I can spare you a random thought or two:
Maxime Chanot picked up a hamstring injury during the international break, and I don’t think I’m being melodramatic when I say I want to burn down our back line without him. Too much? I don’t care. Bring back Mad Maxime!
Obvious observation is obvious, but Stertzer’s substitution was useless and wasted a potentially valuable slot that could have been used to bring in Jon Lewis or Ugo sooner. I want to understand Vieira’s substitution logic, but sometimes I just don’t.
Saturday’s game against the Seattle Sounders also happens to fall on NYCFC’s Pride Day. In general, the commercialization of Pride is something I am entirely against — but NYCFC does a good job of not turning it into a cash grab, which they so easily could. As a queer football fan, seeing a team acknowledge the LGBTQIA+ history of the city they inhabit and the very real, very passionate sector of their fanbase is so heartening. To be acknowledged and validated is invaluable. Personally, I can’t wait for NYCFC’s first ever Pride Day. I have a feeling it’s going to be something really special. (And if we win on top of it, all the better!)
Anyway, who here’s seen The Producers? When I think of NYCFC and the U.S. Open Cup, I think of this:
For the next few days I’ll be salting the earth and praying that Nicolás Lodeiro doesn’t do Nicolás Lodeiro things to us when the Sounders come to town. Please, join me.
Another lead given away, another 3 points dropped, and the cries for a coaching change are growing louder as the Colorado Rapids defeated Columbus Crew SC 2-1 on Saturday night.Berhalter sent out a different formation than normal, essentially a 3-4-2-1, with three centerbacks in the back—Williams, Crognale, and Naess.
There wasn’t a ton to write back home about in the first half.Crew SC had a few nice chances that they couldn’t seem to finish.
In the 11’, Meram sent a pretty ball through to Kamara who just couldn’t get to it.
Later in the 18’, Wil Trapp got a cleared ball from a Crew SC corner kick, sent a pass to Francis, who sent a gorgeous ball to Pipa, who got it to Kamara who just didn’t get it finished.
In the 26’, Afful sent a mini-chip between two Rapid defenders to Higuain, who sent it to Meram.However, it was intercepted by the defense before Meram could get to it.
The Rapids were really limited in opportunities until the 30’ where they had multiple chances including one that forced Steffen to make a double save against Colorado’s Gashi in the 33’.It’s difficult to explain, but I just didn’t sense extreme intensity radiating from anyone (outside of Pipa) during the first half until about the 33’ when the Rapids had multiple chances.
The second half seemed to start with more intensity from both sides.
In the 61’, Crew SC broke it open when Justin Meram sent a ball to Higuain who was left open slightly outside the Rapids 18.
Pipa took the shot as Colorado’s Azira came in to challenge the ball.
The shot deflected off of Azira into the Rapid’s net.
I’m not going to lie.At this point, I felt pretty good about the possibility of winning this game.Colorado is at the bottom of the table, and while the Rapids had some good chances earlier in the game, I felt like we had limited their opportunities fairly well.I had put the earlier leads lost by Crew SC behind me.
Letting my guard down was a mistake as Colorado scored two goals between the 80’ and 86’.The 80’ goal found Hairston running through the middle of the field without much of a challenge, allowing him to send the ball to Mo Saied, who crossed it to two Rapid players running unmarked to the backside of our goal where Kevin Doyle was able to finish it.Then in the 86’, Gordon, essentially unmarked on the backside of the goal, headed the ball in giving Colorado the lead.
Another lead that Crew SC let slip away.
Before the game, I tweeted we should bring Mo Saied back with us.I don’t know if he’d make a difference on the field for us or not, but I miss Mo’s positive presence.I did find it amusing that the guy defending him for the majority of the night—Josh Williams–was one of the few Columbus defenders Mo never played with during his time with Crew SC.
Although our current Mo, Mohammed Abu, had what I thought was a solid game.He flows much better with his teammates than he did earlier in the season.
Pipa continues a dominant 2017.He played another good game and for that, and his game against Seattle, made MLS Team of the Week
While Gregg rolled out a different formation, I wish he had also subbed a bit earlier especially in the higher elevation with a lead.
I will be very disappointed if Meram and Pipa do not get chosen for the MLS All-Star team in some capacity.
Our next game is an Open Cup match against FC Cincinnati on June 14th.I’m not sure what line up Berhalter will roll out as we have a MLS match against Atlanta United three days later.Here’s to a win and all players staying healthy throughout that Open Cup game.(I still miss watching you play Eddie Gaven.)
MLS. It’s not the league of the road warrior. It’s ridiculously difficult to go into an opponent’s stadium and do well. Going into Stade Saputo, the New York Red Bulls (6-7-2, 20 points) had not won an away game since Opening Weekend (vs expansion team Atlanta United) and haven’t scored away since April 1st (in a 4-1 loss against Houston Dynamo).
The form that sent them to the playoffs, that won them the Supporter’s Shield twice in 3 years, and that fans saw coming back in their two most recent wins at home, is slipping away again. Facing the Montreal Impact (4-4-4, 16 points) didn’t make matters easier. This was the team that ousted RBNY from the playoffs last year, Red Bulls Midfielder Felipe’s former team, and the club that had traded to acquire Chris Duvall from RBNY.
During most of the game, the ball stayed on the right side of the field while the Red Bulls had possession. The problem with that is it kept Kemar Lawrence and Mike Grella out of the mix for most of the match. However, a lot of the responsibility fell to Michael AmirMurillo at RB, and he handled the job well. Considering the perceived instability of the back line, defenders Murillo, Lawrence, Aaron Long, and Damien Perrinelle held up quite well throughout the match. Even when Montreal midfielder Blerim Dzemaili made a goal in the 30th minute, it was not because the back line was sleeping on the throw in. Fortunately, the deflection off Dominic Oduro caused the goal to be called back for an offside play.
Following the match, Captain Sacha Kljestan admitted that the team cannot rely on striker Bradly Wright-Phillips to score all the goals; he and the other attackers have to pull their own weight. He should have pointed that out before the match: Grella attempted some fancy footwork in the 42nd minute, as if he was going to dribble the ball right past Impact GK Evan Bush. Then in the 50th minute, Kljestan himself either whiffed the ball or went for the assist: either way, the ball went wide and was another wasted opportunity. Even Felipe, who drew several fouls and took a few free kicks, couldn’t land the ball in the net.
And then, just what the Red Bulls feared came to fruition: in the 67th minute, the Impact earned a free kick and re-started faster than the Red Bulls thought they would. This allowed Dzemaili to poke the ball straight through to the back of the net. They were caught slow, lost, and behind the run of play.
Coach Jesse Marsch called in the reinforcements (Fred Gulbrandsen in for Sean Davis and Gonzalo Veron for Grella in the 75th minute) and the attack was back on. Had the game been maybe ten minutes longer, RBNY might have had a chance to level it. But then in stoppage time Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier slid off the field and fell into the Montreal bench (they have dugout-style benches very close to the touchline—I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often). While Bernier got up and walked out on his own, the incident killed the run of play and referee Mark Geiger did not add additional time to the three minutes already in place.
The International Break is coming up, and prior USMNT call-ups Luis Robles and Sacha Kljestan are staying home (Murillo has been called for Panama, and Lawrence is expected to be called for Jamaica). This is the time they need to rest and refocus. RBNY is hovering at the red line that dictates who makes the playoffs: while they’ve been there before, it’s not where they belong. They have what it takes to climb the standings. They just need to find it in themselves again.