HARRISON, N.J. — It isn’t panic mode quite yet, but following Saturday night’s 1-1 tie with the Columbus Crew, things quite as rosy anymore for the Red Bulls.
Winless in their last six games, New York gave up a stoppage-time equalizer to split the points against their Eastern Conference rival.
The Monday Gaffer looks at the game, New York’s state of mind, and the good and the bad from the result:
The late goal
The Red Bulls looked all set for their first win since late April after scoring an early goal and producing some solid midfield play. Then, in added time with less than a minute to spare, Justin Meram blew past right back Matt Kassel and slotted a ball across the face of goal and fellow rookie Rich Balchan managed to equalize in stunning fashion.
“We should have won this game,” head coach Hans Backe said. “Only one minute and seconds to go and we had the ball in a good area, but that is the way it is.”
There was an undercurrent of frustration from the Red Bulls after the match — and rightfully so after they had found another way to drop points. A month ago, the Red Bulls struggled with conceding off free kicks, then they went through a stretch of three matches in which they gave up a penalty kick. On Saturday, though, they allowed a late equalizer.
“It feels like losing,” midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy said. “We have to keep our heads up and get ready for the next one.”
The Red Bulls are now left to regroup. They'll try to earn a much-needed win this Friday against New England, and though it’s not must-win stuff yet, for a team with Supporters' Shield ambitions at the season’s start, they need to rediscover their winning ways soon.
Da Luz a diamond in the rough
Last Saturday, second-year midfielder Austin da Luz made his debut in Vancouver, logging 20 minutes. The winger followed that up with a very solid shift against Columbus — his first-ever start in MLS. After the match, he said he “held my own,” but he did more than that. He made smart decisions, logged a ton of acreage up and down the left flank and served in some quality crosses. He also provided some nice interchange with Thierry Henry for a most encouraging showing.
“I am quite happy with Austin da Luz’s performance,” Backe said. “I am happy — I wouldn’t say surprised — but a little bit that he could do it for 90 minutes.”
While Kassel had difficulty in containing the Crew’s Meram on that last-gasp play, it was still a decent performance from the rookie right back. A midfielder at the University of Maryland, Kassel played 20 minutes last week for an injured Carlos Mendes and came in for more than 70 minutes on Saturday to replace Jan Gunnar Solli, who injured his calf.
Far from his natural position, Kassel was smart and safe with his defensive decisions (outside of that final play) and the totality of his performance was more good than bad. Kassel, disappointed after the match, didn’t hang his head at all.
“It’s still a learning process, obviously,” Kassel said. “I am still a young guy, new to the position. We’ll work on it.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer