Same old story for Red Bulls defense in 2-2 draw

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The 2010 New York Red Bulls defense went down as one of the best in MLS history, conceding just 29 goals to propel the team from a worst to first finish in the Eastern Conference. In 2011, there is a very good chance that this year’s back four could cost New York a shot at the playoffs. At the very least it cost the team yet another chance at a win on Saturday night in a 2-2 tie in New England.

Since May, the Red Bulls defense has been indefensible. Breakdowns and blunders like Saturday night’s first half meltdown have dropped the team from first place to fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

“We started very poor today,” head coach Hans Backe said. “It was more individual defending that was poor today. We said at halftime that we couldn’t live like this, we need to just step up if it was marking or something [with] positioning and be so much more sharp.”

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The defensive miscues stole the thunder of a furious second half comeback, but it was just the same old story for the Red Bulls written in new and weird ways. New York have won just once in their last 12 league matches, and have drawn six over that span.

The Revolution’s first goal came in the 15th minute with left back Roy Miller caught far up the left flank, allowing Shalrie Joseph to interchange some passes with Benny Feilhaber, eventually springing Feilhaber down the right flank. The United States international dished to Milton Caraglio, who dribbled to the heart of the Red Bulls defense.

Two soft attempts at winning the ball by Rafa Márquez and Tim Ream allowed the resilient Caraglio to break into the area and fire a point-blank shot that was well saved by goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul. The rebound fell to Caraglio who fired his next shot past the helpless keeper for his first goal in MLS. The Revolution’s No. 10 should never have gotten in that position to score if Márquez and then Ream had adequately cleared his dribbles.

“Once again, we started flat today,” defender Chris Albright said. “We had a chance to make a couple plays on that first goals, myself included, you know could make a block in the end.”

Caraglio added his second in the 37th minute, rising above a twisting and turning Márquez to head a goal past Coundoul off a Kenny Mansally freekick. Coundoul was once again hung out to dry by his defenders as Marquez looked lost on the set piece.

Without captain and leading scorer Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls needed their defense to step up and clamp down on the Revolution attack. Instead, it was the third straight match where they conceded two first-half goals.

Backe termed himself pleased with the team’s “passion” in the comeback but he acknowledges that his side was fortunate to scratch out a point at Gillette.

“Normally you lose a game when you’re two-down away,” Backe said. “Being two down, getting a tie, it was a good response.”

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer