By IVES GALARCEP
The list of missing starters read like a who’s-who for the New York Red Bulls. Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Jamison Olave and Dax McCarty. None of them were in the starting lineup for Saturday’s clash with the Montreal Impact, and their collective absences made the Red Bulls an underdog against a winless Impact side.
Rather than roll over in Canada, the Red Bulls’ reserve-laden squad gave the Impact all they could handle, battling back from an early 1-0 deficit to take a 2-1 lead. Montreal playmaker Felipe Martins kept the Red Bulls from taking all three points though, as his second-half goal helped the Impact salvage a 2-2 tie.
Jonny Steele scored a goal and set up a Peguy Luyindula goal in the space of three minutes in the first half to give the Red Bulls the lead, but Martins headed home a Justin Mapp cross in the 59th minute for the final goal of the match.
Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles made a handful of top-shelf saves to help preserve the point for the Red Bulls, who were without injured star Cahill, and Henry and Olave, who were both left home to avoid having them play on artificial turf for fear of having them pick up injuries.
The Impact looked like they would blow the game open when Martins set up Andres Romero with a perfect pass that Romero tucked past Robles in the fifth minute to make the score 1-0.
Montreal kept attacking in waves, with Marco DiVaio coming close to adding a second, but Robles made a handful of early saves to keep the Red Bulls close.
The Red Bulls rallied in the 31st minute when Sam sent a perfect cross from the right flank to a streaking Steele, who finished perfectly to tie the match. Steele made it 2-1 just three minutes later when he sprung Luyindula with an inch-perfect pass after a Marco DiVaio turnover.
The Red Bulls had a chance to make the score 3-1, but Luyindula fired a penalty kick off the post and out to keep the Impact within striking distance.
The Impact tied things up with Martins’ header in the 59th minute to earn their second consecutive draw, while the Red Bulls also remained winless, with a third consecutive draw.