Points Not Taken (New York Red Bulls-D.C. United; 09.27.17)

Robert Cole/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief


HARRISON, NJ — In the most barren run for the New York Red Bulls in recent memory, their latest gain tonight actually ended up feeling like another giant loss.

Two second-half tallies by the Red Bulls in a comeback attempt from a goal down went for naught in stoppage time, as Fidel Escobar’s own goal in the 91st minute resulted in a 3-3 draw for New York against Eastern Conference bottom-dweller D.C. United, extending New York’s winless run in league play to seven games. The Red Bulls have not won a game since Aug. 15 – in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against FC Cincinnati – and have not won a game against a Major League Soccer side since Aug. 12.

The second 45 minutes ended up becoming an end-to-end affair, with the Red Bulls answering Patrick Mullins’ go-ahead goal for D.C. by scoring twice in a four-minute span to take a 3-2 lead by the 78th minute. The points seemed to be in the bag for the Red Bulls as the game entered stoppage time, but then Bruno Miranda sent in a cross into the Red Bulls area that Escobar, while attempting a left-footed clearance, sliced off of his upper leg and into his own net behind keeper Luis Robles.

For the third time this month, the Red Bulls lost a second-half lead and had to settle for a draw, with the latest instance of their profligacy inarguably the most painful to swallow.

“Everybody’s obviously feeling disappointed and gutted,” said Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch. “They fought back so hard to get themselves back into it, and ultimately earn the win, and then we give it away.”

It certainly felt that way if one looked at the statistics of the match and saw that the Red Bulls outshot D.C. United 16-6, had nine of those shots go on target compared to D.C. United’s two shots on goal – which both went in – and carried the possession for most of the game. It’s a point Marsch made sure to make with the physical evidence in hand in the press conference room.

“But I just walked in here looking at the stats, and it’s the same story. Outplaying a team, outshooting them, being more dangerous, but giving away the most ridiculous goals. That’s not lucky. That’s not good enough. So on one level we have a good team. On another level, we’re our own worst enemy. We’re our own worst enemy.”

It looked as if the frustrating run for the Red Bulls would end without too much fuss. New York was almost completely in control of the first half in terms of possession, with that dominance on the ball paying off in the form of a goal in the 19th minute; A cross into the box from defender Connor Lade made its way through to the other end of the box and to a trailing Tyler Adams, who chested the ball down before unleashing a right-footed volley that traveled into the far corner of the net to give the Red Bulls a much-deserved lead.

D.C. United’s only real chance of the first half came right on the edge of stoppage time, as Red Bulls defender Damien Perrinelle gave away a free kick near the top of the New York penalty area after fouling midfielder Paul Arriola and receiving a yellow card. Zoltán Steiber’s subsequent free kick took a deflection off of the leg of Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan, diverting the ball far enough away from Robles’ reach and squeaking in at his far post to square the game with virtually the last kick of the first half.

United came out of the locker room exerting more pressure on the Red Bulls defense and, in the 70th minute, cashed in to take a somewhat unexpected lead. Midfielder Russell Canouse found Steiber at the top of the box, who then played a through ball into the path of striker Patrick Mullins. Mullins, with his left foot, side-footed a shot past Robles and sent D.C. ahead.

The spark for the Red Bulls to get back into the game came from substitute Gonzalo Verón, who came in as part of a double substitution earlier on in the second half (58th minute). Just four minutes after D.C. United went ahead, Verón helped to set up the tying goal by maneuvering past DC center back Steve Birnbaum on the left flank and putting in a cross that eluded striker Bradley Wright-Phillips in front of goal. Fortunately for the Red Bulls, after defender Connor Lade’s follow-up attempt was blocked, the ball came to Adams on the right side of the box, and his low drive went through a phalanx of bodies in the penalty area and past goalkeeper Steve Clark to even up the score.

Similar to the equalizing goal, Verón once again stormed down the left flank a couple of minutes later, and his momentum was stopped when Arriola knocked him down from behind in the box. A penalty was awarded to the Red Bulls and, after winning the team the penalty, Verón calmly shot past Clark to put New York in front again.

Despite D.C. United not creating another shot on goal for the rest of the game, they were able to level the match near the death when Miranda’s pass was from the right flank was deflected into the Red Bulls net by Escobar, who was the other substitute Marsch brought in with Verón early in the second half.

“We were able to pull off [a comeback] last year, I think, as well with a late goal,” said D.C. United manager Ben Olsen. “From a home team standpoint, [the Red Bulls] are a very, very hard team to get anything out of. Again, they put you under so much pressure. But I thought overall we dealt with it pretty well. I’m proud of the response of going down 2-1. It’s an easy one to fold, and I think you see a little bit of difference in the mentality in this group and maybe the group or some of the new guys not having as much baggage and understanding that there is still life in this game and still something to take out of it.”

Along with not coming away with a defeat, the bright side in terms of the big picture for the Red Bulls is they gained a point on each of their two closest competitors in the race for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with both Montréal and New England losing tonight. New York is four points ahead of the Impact and five points ahead of the Revolution with four matches remaining in the regular season.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from tonight’s game, with all photos taken by our senior photographer, Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 24 pictures in the gallery.

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