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Eastern Conference Championship

Monday NY Gaffer: Red Bulls now playing catch-up

Winless in their last eight league matches, the Red Bulls battled back for another draw this past Saturday night, overcoming a two-goal deficit to get knotted-up with the New England Revolution.

The Monday Gaffer reflects on the result and where New York’s postseason chances stand after it.

HIGHLIGHTS: NE 2, NY 2
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Slow starts

For much of May and June, New York were getting early leads and then having mental lapses to concede their hold on the match. In August, however, the Red Bulls have been down at halftime in all three of their games, forcing them to play catch-up.

“We have to find a way to come out with a little more energy,” defender Chris Albright said after the tie against the Revs. “'Energy' may be a big cliché, but we have to find a way to not make defensive mistakes.”

With a game against league-leading Galaxy looming on Saturday, the Red Bulls know that if they go down early to LA, they will be hard-pressed to battle back.

Outstanding Dane

Stacked up against last year, the second half of the 2011 season has been disappointing for Dane Richards.

However, the Jamaican winger got goals four and five on Saturday night to spearhead New York’s second-half comeback. He felt the pressure to perform given the two-goal hole his team dug for itself early in the game.

“[It was a] matter of urgency,” Richards said. “We just came in disappointed in the first half, so the second half we wanted to work hard, fight and we managed to get two goals.”

Richards had a career high five goals last year — all after the All-Star break — to propel RBNY to first place in the East, and New York must hope for similarly dominating performances from their speedy attacker if they want to make…

The Playoffs

It will take more than just sublime performances from Richards to get there.

The Red Bulls now sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, just a single point better than D.C. United, who have two games in hand. The fall from first place in June to now potentially missing the playoffs puts the impetus on New York to start winning games.

“We have eight games to go and we probably need to pick up four wins,” head coach Hans Backe said. “And we probably need a couple more ties — around, I would say, 13, 14 points more. That’s the reality.”

Red Bulls need consistency

If New York want to reach the postseason and break this spell of mediocre play, there has to be more consistency from the team.

The Red Bulls haven’t played two complete halves of soccer in the same game since a 5-0 win over Toronto on July 6. In last week’s 2-2 tie at Chicago, the Red Bulls had a solid start before conceding two goals, only to equalize and settle for a draw. Then, at New England, a sloppy start doomed New York to another comeback effort.

Did the first step come with the team showing some backbone in the dramatic draw against the Revs? Albright thinks so.

“I think there’s been halves where we’ve won the soccer game, but I don’t know how many halves we’ve actually won the fight,” he said. “We did that in the second half, so that’s a good step.”

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