By DAN KARELL
HARRISON, N.J.– The New York Red Bulls entered their 23-day break in June with a performance they’d like to quickly forget.
Defender Jamison Olave was shown a red card in the 75th minute, and two defensive miscues helped the Vancouver Whitecaps comeback from a goal down in the second-half, and earn a 2-1 victory over the Red Bulls in front of 19,969 fans on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.
Whitecaps forward Kenny Miller scored the game-winning goal in the 83rd minute in his first game back after missing the prior seven with injury. The result gives the Whitecaps their first road victory of the season, and ends the Red Bulls seven-match unbeaten run.
“I’m shocked, I can’t believe it,” Red Bulls midfielder Juninho said via a translator. “I can’t believe we lost that game, we completely dominated the first half, we managed to go up 1-0 early in the second half and in a matter of three to four minutes, we lost the game.
Controlling the match in the first half, the home side were the closest to scoring on a number of occasions, with midfielder Johnny Steele and Thierry Henry each having chances on goal. While the pair couldn’t finish their opportunities, there were numerous crosses and passes from the wings that failed to find a target.
In the second half, the Red Bulls looked to have lady luck shining down on them. As they have done all season, Henry and Steele combined well down the left flank, producing the first goal of the match.
Just six minutes into the second half, Henry played Steele into the box. The Northern Irishman’s cross into the middle was deflected by Whitecaps defender Greg Klazura past his goalkeeper Brad Knighton for a 1-0 lead to the Red Bulls.
It wasn’t long before the Whitecaps tied the match. Red Bulls midfielder Eric Alexander failed to clear a cross following a corner, and the ball fell right to the feet of Whitecaps defender Jordan Harvey, who blasted a shot past Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles in the 58th minute to level the scoreline.
The match changed in the 75th minute, when Olave was shown his second yellow card and subsequent red card for a challenge from behind, leaving the Red Bulls without their enforcer in the back.
It proved to cost the home side dearly, as Miller completed his return to the field with a powerful header past Robles, beating Red Bulls defender Kosuke Kimura in the air in the 83rd minute to give the Canadian side a lead they would not relinquish.
“When the ball leaves the (crosser’s) foot, you know exactly where it’s coming,” Red Bulls manager Mike Petke said about the goal. “If you stare at the ball, it’s easy for someone to step in front.”
Substitute Peguy Luyindula nearly tied the match in the fifth minute of stoppage time, pouncing on a ball in the area, but his chip attempt fell safely into Knighton’s awaiting hands.
“At the end of the day, we’re not in a bad position,” Henry said. “We’ve got to work and do a bit better than what we are doing at the time. Hopefully maybe sometime when you lose, people wake up.”
After Saturday night, the Red Bulls don’t play another league match until June 23, in a road match against the Philadelphia Union, though there is a U.S. Open Cup game against the New England Revolution on June 12 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With a long break for the first-team players, they’ll have to quickly find a way to forget about the loss and re-focus on the second half of the season.
“We’re going to have to try to see how we can work and play better, erase the mistakes that we’ve done in the first half of the season, and make sure we come back stronger,” Henry said. “(The break) is going to give us some amount of time to work and play better.”
Prior to the start of the match, former players Juan Pablo Angel and Amado Guevara were given an ovation as they walked on the field.
With the one-match suspension for the red card, Jamison Olave won’t be eligible to return to MLS action for the Red Bulls until June 30, when the Red Bulls host the Houston Dynamo.
Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara was on the substitutes bench for the first time this season, after playing 90 minutes in the mid-week U.S. Open Cup victory over Reading United.
Here are the match highlights: