Ninety minutes. Ninety minutes was what New York Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel wanted out of the match against the Kansas City Wizards. He got that and more.
Angel started for the first time since June 5, a span of five games, which also the last time he scored a goal. Angel scored the lone goal for the Red Bulls, but despite some intense pressure in the final minutes, they couldn't get a second as the Wizards claimed a 2-1 win.
"I feel a little better today," Angel said. "I'm just trying to get my match quickness back. It was good to get have ninety minutes under my belt."
Despite the loss, Angel's return, not only to the lineup, but also the scoresheet, is a positive foundation to build on for the club over the second half of the season, although the Red Bulls now sit in a tie for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with the Wizards.
"I think it's good to see Juan is scoring," Red Bulls head coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. "For the first time in the whole season Juan looked like himself today. Hopefully that's a very positive sign also. With him in good form plus the new players we'll be in good form."
Angel powerfully headed home his third goal of the year in the 71st minute, off a Dane Richards cross from the right flanks. He was just waiting for an opportunity on the attacking end.
"To be honest, we had a lot of crosses today," Angel said. "I was just begging to get on the end of one of those."
Angel's goal set the stage for a wild final 20 minutes that nearly saw the Red Bulls get a late tying goal. Angel looked dangerous to the end, despite his continued recovery from a hamstring injury.
"I think we fought today. It was a pretty scrappy game towards the end," Angel said.
It came down to inches for the Red Bulls at the end. A rocket of a shot by John Wolyniec bounded off the post. A header from Dave van den Bergh just missed, flying over the crossbar after an acrobatic tip by goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. "I think they tried to just defend in their end and try to counterattack," said Osorio. "I was pleased with the effort."
Coming off the 4-0 loss in Colorado last weekend, the Red Bulls again fell behind quickly, as Jimmy Conrad put them in a hole when he headed home a corner after just 11 minutes. The pregame talk specifically mentioned defending on set pieces.
"Obviously the first goal was off a set piece," said midfielder Seth Stammler. "That's something we talked about before the game. You hate to get burned on something you were well aware of and had been cautioned right before the game."
A new beginning is now in the offing for the club with a number of new additions to the squad. A few bounces of the ball going the Red Bulls way would help too.
"I was just saying to the guys that it doesn't seem we're getting any breaks now," Osorio said. "At the moment, we don't get any breaks from the game itself. Hopefully, we'll get all those legs when we need them the most. I think it will turn around at some point."
Thomas Foote is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.