HARRISON, N.J. — It has been five weeks in the making, but the New York Red Bulls finally got a win, edging out the New England Revolution 2-1 on Friday night.
New York hadn’t won a match in league play since Apr. 30, a hard fought and perhaps somewhat fortunate 1-0 home win over Sporting Kansas City. Since then, the Red Bulls haven’t been bad — with four ties and one loss during their winless streak — just frustratingly average.
But for a team with Supporters Shield expectations before the start of the season, the fall into second place in the Eastern Conference was seen as a severe dip in form.
With their narrow triumph on Friday night over the Revolution, it’s all smiles for New York again.
“Mentally, we’ve been really struggling,” goalkeeper Greg Sutton said. “With the mishaps we had last weekend, it’s been really difficult. We needed those three points.”
To borrow Sutton’s words, there have been plenty of mishaps for New York since mid-April, who found every which way to give away points en route to their drought.
For a while during the winless streak, the Red Bulls struggled to keep teams from scoring off set pieces. Then, in three of the four last games, New York gave up a penalty kick to their opponents.
Last Saturday night, New York rode a 1-0 lead until stoppage time, only to see a poor giveaway at midfield and some loose defending lead to an equalizing goal by Columbus.
Frustration was apparent by New York following the late-game equalizer, but six days after the tie with Columbus, the Red Bulls found the will and the way to win.
“Very important to get three points, but a very strange game,” said head coach Hans Backe. “I don’t know if I’ve seen that many scoring chances over 90 minutes. I still have the feeling it was deserved for our guys.”
Deserved, perhaps — but not without a little bit of luck. New York held the run of play and shots on goal, but their first goal of the night came off the foot of New England defender Ryan Cochrane, who accidentally poked it into his own net.
Then, in the 87th minute, it appeared that New York again conceded late yet again when the Revs’ Saniey Nayassi sent a through ball from the right side of the area in to Rajko Lekic, who deftly put the ball in the net. His score, however, was called back due to offsides.
The look of relief on the face of the Red Bulls, who had flashes of déjà vu to last week, told the entire story.
“A lot of things went through my mind, none of which I can probably say right now,” defender Stephen Keel said. “It doesn’t matter how you get the three points as long as you get them.”
After the stoppage time meltdown, midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy said that Backe never addressed the team about the defensive lapses or how to handle killing a game. Instead, the Red Bulls coach chose to focus on the task at hand.
After five games without a win, the emphasis was on the here and now and not the past, a mindset that paid dividends for the Red Bulls, putting them back on the winning track ahead of four straight road games.
“It is a bit of luck, but tonight, we had the luck come to our advantage,” defender Jan Gunnar Solli said. “I think we deserved the win. Tonight, we had three points and that’s the most important thing.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer