The message coming from the New York Red Bulls locker room all week was clear. The team would not be content just to win the rest of the season—they wanted to play well, too. They were hungry to dominate the game. What, then, to make of Sunday night's 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City, where New York didn't get a single shot on target?
The game appeared to be an instant disaster, with New York's back line doing an impersonation of an amateur side inside the first five minutes. Goalkeeper Bill Gaudette came far off his line to try and shut down SKC's Teal Bunbury—who was already being pressured by Markus Holgersson. With the two Red Bulls colliding, Bunbury lofted the ball over to Kei Kamara, who easily put a header on frame over the considerably shorter Connor Lade.
The hosts would dominate most of the first half—but it's fair to ask whether they were playing well or New York was just playing poorly. The Red Bulls would not get a single shot off in the first half, and would only complete 74% of their passes. But luck would be on the visitors' side: on a free kick from distance, Sebastian Le Toux nearly found Tim Cahill inside the goal area. Cahill was beaten to the ball by Kei Kamara, who conveniently headed the ball into his own net. It was the first own goal of the season for New York, and they would happily take it.
The second half was more even, with the defense absorbing Kansas City's attempts well, and the attack remaining frustratingly minimal. (Thierry Henry missed the game due to the birth of his son on Friday.) Sebastian Le Toux finally got a shot off in the 65th minute, but it may have gone into orbit. New York nearly pulled a snatch-and-grab finish as Le Toux broke away on a counter during stoppage time, but Dax "Ginger Ninja" McCarty couldn't finish the pass.
By conventional soccer logic—win at home, draw on the road —this is a fine result for RBNY. They don't lose any significant ground in a tightening Eastern Conference. Both of their remaining games against SKC are at home, where they are still undefeated and seem to play much better. The potential 12 point swing could easily propel them to win the conference, and could give them an outside chance at the Supporter's Shield. And compared to the last two away games where the team was thrashed in Montreal and Houston, it's a considerably better result.
But as the team sets off for RFK for their third and final derby of the year against DC United, it's hard to imagine anyone in the locker room will be truly happy about what went down in Kansas City.
Coach Hans Backe: "We could have won it. We had two of the best goal scoring chances in the game. Most important, we stopped our losing streak on the road. We lost 4 in a row. I think that we came back great after being down after 4 minutes of play, especially against a good team like Sporting KC. They forced us to defend, but I think that we did very well. I do not think that they had one 100% scoring chance during 90 minutes."
Sebastian Le Toux: "It was hard for us to keep the ball on target because we were defending a lot. When we got the ball we tried to get into position, but they were pressing a lot. We continued to work together and even though we didn’t have a lot of shots, we got a result. Maybe we can shoot more against D.C. on Wednesday."
Midfielder Dax McCarty: "I havent been in the box in so long I forgot how to shoot. F me. Oh well, hard fought point on the road. Cant wait 2 get them at home twice."
Next Match: Wednesday August 29, 8 PM @ DC United (TV: Galavision, MSG+)