HARRISON, N.J. — Only once in their last eight games have the Red Bulls won a league match, and Saturday evening’s dramatic 2-2 tie with FC Dallas provided another case study as to why they’ve fallen short in recent months.
The Red Bulls entered halftime at Red Bull Arena flush with confidence. Up 1-0 via a Juan Agudelo 39th-minute goal, the Red Bulls owned the run of play. They held possession for 57 percent of the first half, often making FC Dallas chase the ball around on a day in which the field temperatures topped 100 degrees. They prevented Dallas from striking a single shot on goal, while generating several good chances to score.
Everything seemed to be going right for New York in an effort to redeem themselves after a 4-1 dismantling at Colorado during their midweek game. Then, FC Dallas’ Martin Chávez scored twice in the second half to secure a 2-1 lead for the visitors and all seemed bleak. The Red Bulls had been broken down again defensively, conceding goals after taking a vital lead.
“It’s definitely frustrating to give up the lead,” defender Tim Ream said. “Especially the way we controlled the first half.”
The sloppy defense was reminiscent of the Red Bulls’ recent downturn in play, in particular May and June when slipshod defense and poor marking on set pieces led to an onslaught of goals and dropped points for the Red Bulls.
On Friday after training, Agudelo, who scored the game’s opening goal for New York, called Saturday’s match against Dallas “probably the biggest game of the year” for the club.
Needing to rebound and in the words of head coach Hans Backe before the match, “make a statement,” the Red Bulls again squandered a chance at three points.
“You can say in the first half we definitely made a statement to show we are a quite good team,” Backe said. “We played very well against one of the best in-form teams in the league, a very good team.”
Despite the first half, the Red Bulls again fell short of the three points and they fell to third place in the East with the Columbus Crew overtaking them. During their four-game road trip in June, the Red Bulls held first-half leads in Portland, Seattle and Chicago, only managing two draws from their strong starts in each of those games.
The Red Bulls are being tested once again, as they talk about “bouncing back” from another disappointing result.
“It’s one of those things, the mental thing after they get a goal and then get the second goal and it’s kind of a crappy goal, it’s a crappy performance,” right back Jan Gunnar Solli told MLSsoccer.com. “It was easy, a little too easy for them.
“We definitely feel like after the first half we played, we controlled things very well and then we lost it in the second half. We battled back well, but now we need to bounce back for the next game and win.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer