–by Michael Castellano
One of the oldest sports axioms states that winning is contagious. Unfortunately for the New York Red Bulls, they’ve caught the wrong bug.
New York wasted multiple opportunities to earn at least a draw in a 2-1 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Red Bulls’ fourth consecutive loss in MLS play. New York is now without a win since its May 10 triumph in the first New York rivalry game vs. NYCFC.
An early goal usually would be the perfect tonic for any team with a crisis of confidence, and the Red Bulls (4-5-5) were awarded that opportunity just four minutes into the contest after Vancouver defender Steven Beitashour gave away a penalty on a sliding challenge on Sal Zizzo. Bradley Wright-Phillips, last season’s leading scorer in MLS, stepped up to the spot, but Vancouver goal keeper David Ousted sprung off his line and lunged to his right to make a two-hand save and directing the ball out of play for a corner, stunting the Red Bulls’ momentum.
“They came out guns blazing and that would have capped a good first 10 minutes for them,” said Ousted, who is second in MLS with a 0.94 goals against average. “It was important to save that and keep us in the game.”
Whatever momentum was left after the Red Bulls’ flying start dissipated just about five minutes later, as midfielder Sacha Kljestan was given a straight red card for raising an elbow at defender Kendall Watson in the Vancouver penalty area. It then only took another five minutes for Vancouver (9-2-6) to make good on its numerical advantage, as Beitashour whipped in a cross from the right and Kekuta Manneh stuck out his left foot and deposited the ball past New York goal keeper Luis Robles for a 1-0 Vancouver lead.
For yet another time during this poor run, the Red Bulls had to chase the game.
“It was a stupid play by me,” Kljestan said about the incident with Watson. “I take responsibility. Waston was hugging me in the box and I threw an elbow at him to get rid of him.”
After the goal, the Red Bulls, despite playing with 10 men, were the team creating more chances, and in the 63rd minute, they earned yet another penalty; Beitashour conceded his second one of the game after pulling Anatole Abang’s arm down while going up to meet a cross in the Vancouver box.
Up stepped Wright-Phillips again, but Ousted was prepared yet again, guessing correctly that Wright-Phillips would go down the middle and saving his second penalty of the match.
“I was just trying to get my team back in the game,” said Wright-Phillips, who has gone goalless while attempting 12 shots during the team’s five-game winless run. “It’s a tough one to take, especially missing two penalties.”
Kianz Froese – who came into the game replacing Manneh – doubled the lead for the Whitecaps by finishing off a counter attack started by a Red Bulls’ turnover at midfield, scoring his first goal in an MLS uniform to give Vancouver a 2-0 lead in the 77th minute. New York pulled one back in the 82nd minute when Anatole Abang slotted home from close range past Ousted to cut the Whitecaps lead to 2-1, only the fifth away goal the Whitecaps have allowed all season.
With the Seattle Sounders losing earlier in the day to the San Jose Earthquakes, the Whitecaps now move into a tie with the Sounders for first place in the Western Conference standings on 29 points.
[Cover photo (David Ousted, green outfit) courtesy of Julio Cortez/New York Newsday]