(The Red Bulls honored September 11th victims in the pregame ceremonies – Photo by Jason Schott)
The Red Bulls were cruising on their way to another victory on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena.
They got goals from Gonzalo Veron, off a feed from Sacha Kljestan, in the 30th minute, and Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 54th minute on a slick pass from Daniel Royer to make it 2-0.
It was Wright-Phillips’ league-leading 18th goal of the season, and 63rd with the Red Bulls, as he keeps adding to his franchise record.
What followed was a shooting gallery from the Red Bulls, which included Wright-Phillips missing a shot by inches just a few minutes after he scored, Kljestan hit the post in the 74th minute, and Royer hit the crossbar in the 80th minute.
The problem was they just couldn’t get that third goal.
DC United, who had trouble getting any sustained attack all game, finally broke through in the 89th minute when Steve Birnbaum headed one in from just outside the box to make it 2-1.
There were five minutes of extra time, and DC needed nearly all of it to complete the comeback.
In the 94th minute, Patrick Mullins, who used to play for NYCFC, just missed a great chance by inches at the left post, as Luis Robles deflected it away.
Because Robles was the last to touch it, DC was awarded a corner kick, and it bounced around the box before Lamar Neagle could corral it and he buried it to tie the game at 2 in the final minute of extra time.
Neagle said of his late goal, “I mean it was obviously chaotic on the second corner we had there. I was just trying to be in the middle, you know try to get to it before the goalie could possibly come out. I think (goalie) Bill (Hamid) was up for the header and got smashed back across to Luke (Mishu) and then obviously I’m just trying to be in front of the goal for any knock downs or anything like that. Luckily there was some spin on it and I was just trying to get in front of the post wherever I could and luckily I ended up getting a knee to it. I mean I didn’t really know what to, I didn’t know if I should try to get it before it went in the goal, I thought it might have been going in, I thought it might have been going out. I was just trying to stand my ground and not handball it or hit it wide. It’s probably the toughest, easy goal I’ve ever had.”
Red Bull Arena went silent, aside from the DC fans in the upper deck, who made their presence known throughout the game thanks to their drum.
The Red Bulls missed a chance to tie Toronto for first place, and instead gained just one point to give them 44, with a record of 12-9-8, to tie them with NYCFC for second. They own the tie-breaker with NYCFC by virtue of goal differential, with the Red Bulls at +12 and NYCFC at -1.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of this feeling like a crushing defeat, “Listen, I’m gutted for our guys. I think in all ways they established themselves in this game as a good team. Could have been three. Could have obviously helped ourselves by getting a third goal.
“It’s been frustrating how many points we’ve given away late in games. When you add them all up and you look at it, you shake your head and go, How in the world does that happen? They seem to come in different fashions.
“The game I thought was totally under control. It came down to some scrambles in front of the box. Wind up coming in second on a couple plays.
“I’m still very ‘glass half full’. This is a good team. I know what I’m looking at. The frustration of giving some late leads away, we’ll continue to reinforce certain things with the mentality, look tactically at what we do, personnel choices, the whole bit. But this is a good team. We’re making it hard on ourselves and we’re going to get there the hard way, but we’re going to get to where we need to go. We’re going to get there.”
Wright-Phillips said of seeing a pattern on how these results keep happening, “I don’t see a pattern, it’s unacceptable, it’s rubbish. We keep doing this, we had a chance to go on top, obviously being top right now isn’t everything but come on man. As a team we got to sort it out, it’s embarrassing man. You saw the game, this team, they didn’t have nothing. They had Lloyd’s chance. Great save by Luis, but other than that they had nothing. This was the only way they were going to score, something along those lines.”
Marsch said of the close chances they had, including two post shots, “Again, on another day I think both those go in. I thought Sacha was very good at setting up so many plays, setting guys up for chances. Could have had some goals, could have had some assists. He continues to play like that, we’ll be in good shape. Brad continues to score goals.
“There’s so many positives to take away from this game. The one positive you can’t take away is the result. Honestly, let’s all be honest and look at that game. How am I going to be frustrated or disappointed, other than now the result? There’s a lot there where we’re totally in command of the game.
“I’m not being positive for the sake of being positive. I’m being positive because I know what I’m looking at. This is a good team and we’re going to continue to get better.”
For DC United, they got a much-needed point in their quest for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They now have 33 points (7-9-12) and are tied with New England for seventh place, and one point behind Orlando, who holds the sixth and final playoff spot.
DC United Coach Ben Olsen said of what this comeback does for his team, “I think for most of the night it was pretty discouraging, right? They were better in a lot of facets of the game. But what I don’t doubt with my group is courage and belief. To be able to salvage something on a day when we weren’t that great, things were a little bit against us. I thought the first goal, thought it could have been a foul. We give them the second with a square ball. In some ways we played into their hands. We miss a breakaway. Again, things didn’t go our way.
“The second half, now we have to chase the game. When you do that against Sacha and Bradley Wright, you’re in for it. They’re as good as anybody in this league when you start to get exposed. We rode our luck a little bit. We have a good goalkeeper. We found a way to get something out of it.
“This helps. A point in the East right now goes a long way ’cause there’s a lot of ties, and it’s very tight, and every point counts.”
RED BULLS HONOR 9/11 VICTIMS:
The Red Bulls will be donating both warm-up shirts and game jerseys to the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund. Members of the organization will be on the field holding a giant American Flag during the National Anthem.
The New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund is a nonprofit dedicated to helping the families of New York City Police Officers, Firefighters, Port Authority Police, and EMS Personnel who have been killed in the line of duty. Their mission is to reassure these families that they will never be forgotten and that we will always remember the sacrifice made by their loved ones. This year alone, the organization will help approximately 600 families and distribute over $4 million.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of the ceremony, “Well, I would say that this organization tries in every way to be reflective of our fan base and our community. Certainly even a lot of the 9/11 honoring I thought was fantastic. Having that big flag out there was important. I thought the young lady who sang the national anthem was fantastic.
“I thought overall the vibe of the day was just awesome. Having D.C. and us play in this kind of a game on this day I thought was really important for our league.
“So in all ways I’m proud of our club. I’m proud to be here. I’m proud to represent it as the head coach. Everything I do, I try to make sure I represent what we want to be and who we are in a big way.”