Instant classic? Perfect ending? A massive win? Call last night's Red Bulls match against Real Salt Lake what you will, but no one would call it dull or forgettable. Trailing 3-2 with under ten minutes to play, New York dug deep to find two late goals, including a Dax McCarty game-winning header that caused Red Bull Arena to practically explode. The 4-3 win puts the Red Bulls one point behind Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City, who they face next week.
Espindola, Olave, and Steele all shine. RBNY has occasionally had a nickname of "RSL East" thrown at it all season, with three players having been acquired from Jason Kreis' club in the off-season. The trio all stepped it up for the only regular season meeting with their former club this season. Espindola converted two penalty kicks (including a very cheeky paneka), including an 89th minute one that leveled the match 3-3. Steele put in a good shift on the left wing, contributing to the attack with two key passes. And Olave, who was seen cradling his newborn daughter during the national anthem, was a beast defensively, shutting down RSL's attack.
Roy Miller. With Costa Rica's Gold Cup run over, Roy Miller returned to the lineup for the first time in over a month. Miller's quality at left back was clear: his calmness on the ball, his good interplay with the midfield, and his ability to provide service forward. His name wasn't on the score sheet, but his presence was noticeable and key to the Red Bulls' success.
Dax McCarty's game winner. Deep into five minutes of stoppage time with the game tied 3-3, New York's pushed forward with a very tentative attack - conceding another goal would have been too much. Dax McCarty switched the ball from left to right outside the box, passing to Brandon Barklage. Barklage tried to feed the ball forward to Lloyd Sam, but Sam found himself too pressured and returned the ball to Barklage, who one-timed a cross into the box. An on-rushing Dax McCarty did his best Tim Cahill impersonation, sending a header just out of reach past goalkeeper Jeff Attinella to take all three points.
To put it mildly, the crowd went wild:
The Supporters' Shield race has been blown wide open. RSL's loss - coupled with Sporting Kansas City giving up a late loss at Montreal and Portland falling 2-1 at San Jose - leaves the MLS table in quite the state. Ten teams find themselves within five points of RSL, who still lead the league with 37. New York sit two points back with 35, making next weekend's match at Sporting Kansas City all the more vital.
Saborio's hat trick. The Red Bulls looked to be heading into half-time with a comfortable 2-0 lead, but a penalty kick converted by Alvaro Saborio cut that deficit to one and may have frayed the home side's nerves. RSL looked more assured in the second half, and Saborio stunned the home side with two more quick goals in the 80th and 82nd minutes. His second goal was largely due to the failure of NY's defense to shut him down, although his third goal was admittedly gorgeous. The RSL bench emptied to celebrate what looked like an major comeback at the time, and Red Bulls fans began lamenting what looked like a collapse of unprecedented proportions.
Backe's Petke's substitution strategy. When you've got a physical game going on, players are going to either get exhausted or yellow carded, and a good substitution strategy becomes key. While RSL's Jason Kries used up all his subs by the 77th minute, Mike Petke would not go to his bench until the 85th - when his side looked like they had let the result slip away. It was eerily reminiscent of Hans Backe's notorious unwillingness to make subs unless he didn't feel in control of the game, something many Red Bull fans hoped to never see again.
An violent early tackle on Tim Cahill. Just four minutes into the match, Yordany Alvarez went in cleats-first into Tim Cahill's knee. The Australian midfielder writhed under the pain, causing a considerable stoppage at the beginning of the match. Cahill's pain seemed to be replaced by sheer rage that Alvarez only earned a yellow card for what looked like a straight red. Cahill was blunt after the match: "All I can say is, watch the replay. I think that's probably the worst tackle I've ever had in my life in 17 years." (Cahill would get his revenge on the score sheet: after getting his knee taped up, he returned and scored the opening goal minutes later.)
Silviu Petrescu losing control of the match. Beyond not showing Alvarez the right color, it was a bad night for referee Silviu Petrescu, who blew his whistle 46 times for a season high in fouls committed. (The MLS all-time record is 57.) With seven yellow cards awarded, the game clearly got away from him, leading to a physical gritty match that was far from "the beautiful game".
Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill can look forward to spending the upcoming week in Kansas City, as both will feature in the MLS All Star Game this Wednesday night against AS Roma. The rest of the team will join them shortly thereafter, as the Red Bulls take on Sporting in a match with huge implications for the remainder of the season. SKC have had the edge as of late, having not lost to NY in their last five meetings, including a 1-0 win at Red Bull Arena earlier this season. The Red Bulls' will need to excise whatever demons are making them terrible on the road, as a win here will be necessary if they want to continue their push for the Supporters' Shield.
Thierry Henry on the performance: "Well you know they came up with five minutes, so you know you have time to kind of win it. Dax won it for us so, the place went mental. It was the first time I beat Salt Lake and the team that was on top at the moment. Like I said to you, amazing effort, great effort. We came back into it. Three points. Happy."
Mike Petke on his substitution strategy: "Fabian already had a goal, Thierry is our captain, you know at any moment he can bring out the brilliance and we needed to get more attacking players on obviously, to bring on a Peguy. Jonny Steele I thought worked very hard, he had some very good moments, my thought process was to get three forwards on there, play three at top and we decided to go there, and put him on the left, right before that Tim in the first half got a knock, a very bad knock and he fought through it and it’s one of those things that we’re fighting with each other. He’s telling me I better not take him off and giving me that look that I remember as a player I would do because he wants to be involved, but then to see the work that he puts in, and him grimacing you have to get him off. Having Eric and bringing Lloyd on, I thought Lloyd did some very good stuff down the wing. And then Obekop we saw last week when he came on in Toronto, how dangerous he can be, and we’re hoping that he can sit behind the three forwards and be a bit of a spark. He didn’t get much minutes but I went offensive; even when we tied the game I didn’t want to settle for a tie at home. Without sacrificing losing, I wanted to be offensive minded."
Mike Petke on his message during physical games: "Be smart. The last thing you want is somebody to get ejected. I think there was a lot of fouls called today. I think there were some risks, I think there were some moments but overall, I don’t know what the foul stats was, if any team was overly more fouled or not or if it was kind of even but the whistle blew a lot tonight. And you have to adapt to the type of that game, you have to expect he’s going to start throwing cards out and I think there was a bunch of cards tonight. I like a physical game, it worked in our favor tonight."
Tim Cahill on the officiating: "What about last week when I scored, what do they have to say to that, when it was a goal. What about this week? It speaks for itself, you know, there’s not much you can say. Anyone who watched the game can make their own assumptions of what they think about the referee. But, for us, like always said, the players, just get on with it, play. People make mistakes, people might not make mistakes, but the main thing is is through our desire to want to win was the reason why we come out on top."
Dax McCarty on his game winner: "Oh man. That was a crazy one. It’s one of the craziest games I’ve ever been a part of in MLS, my career, every basically. You go from literally shooting yourself in the foot, asking yourself how you let them back in the game...I was mad at myself. I could’ve done better on Saborio’s third goal. You know, you think you hold him up and the guy has a fantastic finish. I mean you got to give him credit, but I thought I could’ve done better so I was a little mad at myself and you know, when you score the game winner in the 90-whatever minute I mean, you feel like a little bit of redemption so I’m just glad I was there at the right time."
Thierry Henry on his lingering concern: "I don’t have any doubt of how we play at home, but away from home it’s not the same team. So we have to manage our game away from home, play better and at home we’re pretty good. But we have to play better away from home if we want to, if we make the playoffs, if we want to win this thing because you know the games away are pretty important. We know we can play well at home as we’ve just shown and even before that but we have to play better away from home. That’s the key right now if we want to be more consistent."
Next Match: Saturday, August 3rd 6:30 PM, at Kansas City (TV: NBC Sports)