After lifeless first half in draw with Chivas, New York Red Bulls' Mike Petke mulling changes

HARRISON, N.J. – Moments after Péguy Luyindula scored an equalizer at the death vs. Chivas USA on Sunday, New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke stood at the podium in the postgame press conference room at Red Bull Arena and made it clear how unhappy he was with his club’s performance.

Petke refrained from going into the type of heated diatribe he has delivered in the past following the 1-1 draw that left the Red Bulls winless through four games. Instead, the second-year head coach calmly and collectedly offered a critical observation of his team, specifically their lack of effort in what was a poor first half that saw them fall into a 1-0 hole against the Goats.

What irked him was how some of his players performed in those rough 45 minutes, and though he didn't specify who fared well and didn’t, he said some lineup changes could be looming. And that might start with who fared well in the reserve team's performance later Sunday vs. the USL PRO's Dayton Dutch Lions.

“I’m going to pay very close attention to the reserve players throughout this week because there has to come a point that some of these kids are given the opportunity they deserve,” said Petke. “I don’t want any [headlines] that I’m going to make wholesale changes, because that’s not what I’m saying. 

"But we need some life in this team at times and we saw it in the second half, but we saw it very sparingly throughout the first four games. That to me – talk tactics all you want, talk individual players and mistakes – but at the end of the day, if we’re going to come out flat like that, then might as well not come out at all.”

New York’s starters looked far from sharp in the opening stanza at Red Bull Arena. In fact, it was probably their worst half of the season, worse than the two halves in the 4-1 season-opening loss they suffered in Vancouver.

They couldn't get into a rhythm offensively, had too many lapses defensively and were forced to make first-half substitutions after losing Tim Cahill and Richard Eckersley to injuries.

By halftime, the Red Bulls were lucky to be down just one goal. But the players came out much-improved in the second half, taking control of the match and creating (and wasting) a bevy of quality goalscoring chances that were not present during the opening three weeks of the season.

“The one thing you could see is the effort level was different,” said goalkeeper Luis Robles, who was beaten by Erick “Cubo” Torres on the first-half penalty kick. “We were winning second balls, which we weren’t winning in the first half. … The effort level was the difference.”

New York couldn't quite pinpoint the reason for the slow start, but what wasn't difficult was admitting that they were just not good or sharp enough from the opening kickoff on Sunday.

“Second half was more like it, but we always have to react to something,” said midfielder Lloyd Sam. “We need to start off games how we played [the] second half.”

As Petke said, it might take the introduction of a few reserve players to help do that.

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.