By DAN KARELL
One of the mantras that’s been repeated a number of times this summer by a few of the returning members of the New York Red Bulls has been how in seasons past, the team would have lost a close game.
Facing adversity again on Saturday evening against the New England Revolution, the Red Bulls dug deep to score an equalizing goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time off the head of midfielder Tim Cahill, saving the team a point with the 2-2 draw and clinching a spot in the 2013 MLS Cup playoffs.
Following the match, Cahill applauded the spirit of the team and talked about how he believes the mentality of the team has changed since he arrived in August 2012.
“The mentality of this team has changed in the year and a half I’ve been here,” Cahill said. “It’s a special club to play for, but it’s pretty good as well when you can walk away and everyone’s slightly disappointed with the result because we expect far more from each other.
“When I came here first it was a bit messy. Everything was just okay, it was accepted that some things happen in games and losing…it just wasn’t (good) when you have players coming in and out (of the club). (But) now it’s a team that plays for each other until the end of every game.”
Here are some more notes from Saturday’s Red Bulls draw:
RED BULLS SAVE THE BEST (AND WORST) FOR LAST
Fans of American sports love late drama, and the Red Bulls are no stranger to that this season.
Following Saturday’s 2-2 draw against the Revolution, the Red Bulls have now tallied 18 goals scored (46 percent of their total goals scored) in the final 15 minutes plus stoppage time of Major League Soccer matches this season, second only to Real Salt Lake, who scored have 19 goals in that span.
However, despite the Red Bulls late goal-scoring success, they have also conceded 15 goals (nearly 42 percent of their total goals allowed) in the final quarter of an hour of play, which ranks among some of the worst totals in the league. Of teams in the top half of the league table, only the Los Angeles Galaxy, with 18 goals conceded in that span, are worse. The Montreal Impact have also conceded 15 goals in the same span.
“We need to put teams away, and I think this year a lot of times we did put teams away,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said following the match. “Tonight, give New England credit. They made it difficult for us to play a lot of the time and they put pressure on us all over the field.”
Now that the Red Bulls have qualified for the playoffs, it remains to be seen whether this trend will continue in crunch time, or if the team can figure out how to keep from conceding late.
RED BULLS DISAPPOINTED WITH PENALTY KICK DECISION
The Red Bulls seemed to be heading towards a tight 1-0 victory before a controversial decision in the 84th minute from referee Fotis Bazakos changed the outcome of the match.
A shot from Revolution forward Saer Sene towards goal was blocked by the left shoulder of Red Bulls defender Jamison Olave, but from Bazakos view in real time without the help of instant replay, it was adjudged to be a penalty kick decision. The call was just one of many during the match that showed that the inexperienced ref didn’t have full control of the game, and it allowed Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen to score the equalizing goal.
Petke and the Red Bulls players following the game were muted in their reactions to the penalty kick decision, with both Henry and Petke admitting that they weren’t going to speak out of line so as not to incur a fine from the league office.
“All I know is the second I congratulated Olave for making the playoffs, there was a giant ball mark pretty much on his chest, right inside the shoulder,” Petke said.
The referee has a tough job to do out there….sometimes you get the calls, sometimes you don’t.”
BYE WEEK COMES AT A PERFECT TIME
With three weeks remaining in the 2013 Major League Soccer season, the Red Bulls get a much needed bye week after playing every weekend since June 23.
Both Cahill and David Carney are in Paris, France after having been called up to the Australia National Team but the rest of the squad will be given some time to rest and heal up before the final two games and busy playoff stretch that will follow in November.
“My team for sure needs a rest, mentally and physically,” Petke said. “We’ve decided that instead of giving them a full week off, bringing them back for a week of training, we’re going to give them three days off, three days on, three days off, and five days leading into the (next) game.
“That way, they can’t go too far, can’t get in too much trouble, but they can rest enough and the three days this week we’re going to train to keep them in shape so they’re sharp when they come back.”
The Red Bulls return to action on October 20 with the third and final match against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium, before returning home for their final match of the year on October 27 against the Chicago Fire.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
- The penalty kick conceded was the tenth allowed this season, with opponents scoring on seven of the attempts. The Red Bulls have been awarded just three penalties, converting all of them.
- Fabian Espindola’s first half goal for the Red Bulls was the 100th scored in franchise history against the New England Revolution.
- Cahill’s goal was his tenth of the season and second goal in as many matches. He’s scored four goals in his last five games played.
- Juan Agudelo’s return to Red Bull Arena for the first and possibly only time as a member of the Revolution didn’t go as well as he had planned. The 20-year-old Red Bulls academy graduate recorded no shots in 79 minutes before being substituted.
What do you think of these note? Do you agree with Cahill’s statement on the team’s mentality? Are you worried about the club’s late-match goals allowed? Happy that the team has a chance to rest?
Share your thoughts below.