The New York Red Bulls saw their season take another dejected turn Saturday night, as the visiting San Jose Earthquakes escaped with a late draw. Bradley Wright-Phillips converted a penalty kick for his seventeenth of the season, while Steven Lenhart rescued the Quakes with an 85th minute volley.
Playing their third game in eight days, Mike Petke trotted out much of the same lineup that he claimed was fatigued on Wednesday. Ibrahim Sekagya replaced rookie Matt Miazga at center back for the only lineup change.
While RBNY looked out of sorts early, they started to put steady chances together, and were rewarded in the 33rd minute. Steven Lenhart smacked the ball with his hand in the box, and Bradley Wright-Phillips sent Jon Busch the wrong way on the penalty kick to give NY the opening goal. BWP is now two goals away from the club's single season scoring record (Juan Pablo Angel's 19 in 2007), and ten goals back from the league's record (27, shared by Roy Lassiter and Chris Wondolowski).
The second half looked like the Red Bulls would be able to grind out a result. Even if they kept flubbing their scoring opportunities, and even if the whistle kept going against them, at least San Jose kept missing. But when you don't have an insurance goal, all the game needs is one fluke shot. That one shot came from notorious MLS villain Steven Lenhart, who had enough space to smack home a volley and level the match in the 85th minute. When the final whistle blew, boos rained down on the field. Were they for RBNY's players, who let a lead slip away for the fourth time this year? Was it for the officials, who made some questionable calls? Was it for San Jose, just for being San Jose? Probably a combination of the three.
After the match, we asked Mike Petke why, given the team's tired legs, he would only make one sub (Tim Cahill was swapped for Peguy Luyindula because of an eye injury). His response was telling:
Because the game did not call for a sub with the players that we had on the bench tonight. I had somebody ready to come on after Peguy and then they scored the tying goal and that kind of goes out the window. Andre Akpan, I would love to bring on in a situation like this. I mean, we had the leading scorer up top that scored again tonight and had countless opportunities. Then I have Thierry Henry up top who can make a difference at any second. It’s tough, I know. I’ve got these young guys in the back line and I’m hopefully going to find the right opportunities to get these other guys in. At the end of the day, it’s not that I don’t want to make a sub. I understand you and the fans might have [your] opinion, and I respect it, but at the end of the day, if it doesn’t feel like it’s going to make an impact and the way the game’s going, I’m not going to make a sub.
It sounds to us like Petke can't trust the players on his bench to make an impact. Barring some major reinforcements coming in during the transfer window, there's not much light to see at the end of this tunnel.
The Red Bulls are off from league action this week, but will host storied English side Arsenal in a friendly on Saturday evening. The game will be televised on ESPN2.