HARRISON, N.J. – With just one win in their previous 10 games, the New York Red Bulls were in desperate need of three points against the lowly Chicago Fire.
Always the “Zen Master,” however, head coach Hans Backe spun Saturday night’s 2-2 home draw with Chicago as a good momentum builder for team, particularly after a 3-0 loss at Rio Tinto Stadium to Real Salt Lake last Saturday.
“Definitely a step in the right direction comparing to the last two months: perfect, great attitude over 90 minutes” Backe said. “Of course we want to win games, we must win games but the most important thing was to see if we could bounce back after the Salt Lake game.”
Instead of a win, New York got more mediocrity as they played themselves to a 6-6-13 record. The Red Bulls hold a tenuous lead on third place in the Eastern Conference, but there were still positives to be taken away from the draw.
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Even as the Red Bulls remain mired in the thick of the Eastern Conference, New York proved they have offensive firepower by putting up 20 shots and holding 65.8 percent of possession. It was a night and day performance for New York when compared to last week’s debacle at Rio Tinto.
“The win wasn’t so important for me, it was more important if we played good,” said midfielder Joel Lindpere, who scored the second-half equalizer. “I feel if we play good, we’re in the playoffs.”
Backe said he was “happy with the performance.” Not everyone on the team have the same outlook as their coach, however.
The draws and dropped results are clearly wearing some players thin, especially as the Red Bulls slipped from first place in the conference a month ago to now middle of the pack.
“It’s pretty frustrating just to have so many chances and to play such good football and not come out with [the] three points we’ve been looking for for the past month,” forward Juan Agudelo said.
The Red Bulls have not won since July 6, a 5-0 thrashing of Toronto FC. They're 0-2-3 since that win.
“Definitely not a victory, and if we continue down this path, we won’t make the playoffs,” defender Rafa Márquez told MLSsoccer.com.
The results on Saturday night of the other teams in the conference didn’t help matters much.
With first-place Columbus getting a win and second-place Philadelphia keeping pace with a draw of their own, the Red Bulls could soon be eclipsed by Sporting Kansas City, the Houston Dynamo and D.C. United in the race for the playoffs. Backe isn’t worried about the push for the postseason.
“As it looked today, definitely yes. Absolutely this is a playoff team,” Backe said. “And if we reach the playoffs, I am absolutely sure we will be very dangerous.”
“Of course I’m worried. I have a winning mentality, I always come out to win,” Márquez said. “I’m not going to let points get away like this.”