The New York Red Bulls certainly did not have the look of a team playing on little rest.
Fielding the identical lineup that routed the Houston Dynamo at home Wednesday, the Red Bulls overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit and picked up a point in a 1-1 road draw with the Columbus Crew on Saturday. The result extended New York’s current undefeated streak to three games and moved them to 2-2-5 on the year, but what may have been more important was the manner in which they performed at Crew Stadium.
Mike Petke’s side came out flying in the opening minutes and had two great chances to take the lead early on, but Eric Alexander and Bradley Wright-Phillips were unable to beat the stellar Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark. Still, New York showed plenty of grit and quality against a Crew side that had the home-field advantage, was more rested and is currently atop the Eastern Conference.
“I was pleased with many aspects of the performance tonight,” Petke told reporters after the match. “Obviously, after the first seven minutes we should’ve been up 2-0 [on] the two breakaways. After that, I felt that if we kept that pressure up, we kept that work rate up and we were able to find those little pockets to get the ball, we were going to be okay.”
New York were okay until they conceded what was the latest in a string of penalty kicks this season, and Jairo Arrieta converted from the spot in the 39th minute. That could have doomed the Red Bulls given that they were playing their second match in four days, but the club demonstrated some resolve in searching for the equalizer that eventually came via a well-taken strike from Wright-Phillips, who followed up his Wednesday hat trick with another solid performance.
“It shows a lot of character from the boys,” said Wright-Phillips, who now has four goals in his last two matches. “That’s what happens when you win game: you start thinking that every game you should win. I think that’s what we showed by coming back.”
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Part of the recipe to the Red Bulls’ success against Columbus was preventing Federico Higuain from getting on the ball in dangerous spots. Petke said New York watched a lot of tape on Columbus, and they came to the conclusion that clogging the middle and forcing them down the flanks would give his side the best chance of getting a result, even on short rest.
“I felt like for the most part we didn’t let him get the ball in dangerous spots,” said goalkeeper Luis Robles. “He had one or two chances, but the midfielders, the defenders did a good job of tracking him. He makes things click here in Columbus, we knew that, so that was our game plan from the beginning.
“I’m sure the guys are going to be super tired, but we have two days off so we’ll be all right.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.