In seventeen away games—going back to June 29th, 2002—the New York Red Bulls had failed to win against the New England Revolution. Up against such a terrible curse, Sunday night's 2-0 loss (failure #18!) may not come as a shock, but the way it played out won't make it sting any less.
The odds were long against RBNY to begin with, considering that six regular starters didn't make the trip to Foxboro. Jan Gunnar Solli and Heath Pearce were the most recent additions to the injury list, joining Markus Holgersson and Teemu Tainio. Both Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez also missed the trip, as the artificial turf at Gillette Stadium seems to regularly cause absences from NY's two highest paid players.
The absences led to a Red Bulls side that came out toothless in the first half, managing to hold over 62% possession but failing to register even a single shot. The Revolution may not have had as much time on the ball, but had no problem creating scoring chances. While they could've easily had three goals, they only managed one, when Lee Nguyen blasted a long range shot past a number of ball-watching Red Bulls in the 24th minute.
Lucky to still be in the match, the Red Bulls began to attack in the second half - but seemed to be up against both the Revolution and first-time referee Drew Fischer. While poor officiating is never an acceptable excuse for a loss, Fischer's questionable calls did have an impact on the game. Rough challenges lead to three yellows being issued to NY but similar challenges by New England escaped punishment. Kenny Cooper appeared to be shoved in the box by goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, but shouts for a penalty were unheard. Most frustratingly, Saer Sene clearly pushed down defender Roy Miller while on an attack, but no call was made. Ryan Meara was left in a 2-on-1, and a debuting Jerry Bengtson scored off the rebound to seal the victory.
The Red Bulls (9-5-4) remain in third place in the Eastern Conference, two points back and now level on games played with both Sporting Kansas City and D.C. United. Since returning from the international break, New York has only managed 5 points of a possible 15. A big test begins July 15th: three home games against resurgent teams - Seattle, Chicago, and Philadelphia - in just seven days. With nine crucial points and an undefeated 2012 home record on the line, the games will challenge the team's depth, stamina, and determination. If the Red Bulls hope to stay in the hunt for the MLS Supporter's Shield, next week's challenge must be passed with flying colors.
Next Match: Sunday, July 15th 4PM, vs. Seattle (TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes)