Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By RYAN TOLMICH
HARRISON, N.J. — After arriving only Thursday from Brazil after finishing his time with the Australian National Team, Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke was looking to get Tim Cahill into the game against Toronto FC, albeit in a totally different situation than the 2-1 hole the Red Bulls were facing at the time of Cahill’s introduction.
“I was hoping to bring Tim on in the 88th minute, up 3-0 so the fans could clap him for the wonderful World Cup he had,” Petke said. “Obviously, things change with the score, with the way the game went and we felt to bring Tim on for 15-20 minutes, perhaps something could happen.”
Something did happen for Cahill and the Red Bulls, as the Australian played a key role in the eventual game-tying goal, scored by Bradley Wright-Phillips in the third minute of second half stoppage time to save the Red Bulls a crucial home point in a 2-2 draw with TFC at Red Bull Arena. The goal was Wright-Phillip’s league-leading 12th of the season.
TFC opened the game with a barrage of chances, overwhelming a young Red Bulls back line who conceded to bend but not break. However, after spending much of the first half on the back foot, it were the Red Bulls that opened the scoring.
Red Bulls left back Ambroise Oyongo, who was making his first MLS start, picked up his first MLS assist by finding the head of Peguy Luyindula in the 36th minute for the game’s opening goal.
Luyindula, who missed a similar header just 13 minutes prior, will get credit for the goal, but it is Oyongo who deserves credit for the play, as the 23-year-old Cameroonian found space on the left side, cut back and placed a cross right into the path of Luyindula.
TFC answered back via a Defoe strike 10 minutes after the start of the second half, as the star striker smashed home his eighth in nine career MLS games. Much like the Red Bulls’ opener, TFC took advantage of space down the wings, as the speedy Dominic Oduro found space on the right and found a streaking Defoe, who directed the ball home.
“It was just a run across the front post,” Defoe said. “Getting that space just to get my shot on. I just guided it on. It happened so quick, but I was happy to see it go in.”
Prior to the finish, Defoe had been largely held in check by the inexperienced Red Bull backline, especially young centerback Matt Miazga. However, Defoe’s ability to appear out of nowhere was something Henry pointed to after the game.
“You don’t see him a lot in the game, but when you see him, he usually does score,” Henry said of his former North London Derby rival. “That’s him though. He doesn’t see who’s around him and he tries to smash it. He got a good ball from Oduro… He buried it. That’s what he does.”
This paved the way for a highlight reel strike from TFC sub Gilberto, who had failed to register an MLS goal to this point. The Brazilian put an extra special exclamation point on his breakthrough strike by dismissing Defoe from the dead ball and firing into the top corner, leaving Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles helpless on a 25-yard rocket of a free kick.
“Sometimes as players, you just get feelings for things,”said TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen. “Obviously, Gilberto had a feeling that he was going to do something. Unfortunately, his English isn’t that good, so he couldn’t say ‘Jermaine, I’ve got a funny feeling I’m going to put this one into the top of the net.”
“To be fair, he looked confident,” added Defoe, who appeared frustrated prior to Gilberto’s finish. “When he stepped up and had that feeling, I thought he was going to score. You can see from his celebrations. I’m so happy for him.”
The happiness didn’t last long, as the Red Bulls finally brought on Cahill in the 78th minute and the Australian was received with a standing ovation from the Red Bulls crowd.
Cahill quickly made his presence felt and while the Red Bulls struggled to thread in passes around the box, Cahill played a huge role in the game-tying-goal. A long ball sent into the box in the third minute of stoppage time was re-directed into the path of Wright-Phillips, who slotted home for his league-leading 12th goal of the season.
Despite conceding the late equalizer, Nelsen is far from disappointed in his team’s effort, citing the importance of ever-elusive road points.
“Any point away from home in a league full of parity is priceless,” Nelsen said. “Three points are obviously extremely good, but that point against the MLS Supporters Shield holders is still very valuable for us.
“It shows, I think where Toronto FC have come in the last 18 months, that we’re all gutted here that we didn’t pick up three points and that we didn’t put ourselves in a very, very good position in the table, but a point is very valuable.”
TFC will look to rebound with a short turnaround, as the victors visit the Chicago Fire Wednesday, much to the pleasure of Defoe.
“Sometimes it’s good when there’s a lot of games in a short space of time because if you get a little disappointment, you can sort of like bounce back within the next game,” Defoe said. “Obviously, we’re disappointed we didn’t win today. I thought we deserved to win. They scored a late-minute goal. Hopefully, we learn from our mistakes and next time, we just see the game out.”
Meanwhile, the Red Bulls will look to build on the momentum of a last-second draw on the Fourth of July when they head to Houston to take on the Dynamo.