After having a hand in two of the goals New York conceded in last Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Chicago Fire, Heath Pearce was out for some redemption. Turns out, he only had to wait a few days.
Pearce donned the hero’s cape on Wednesday night, scoring the equalizing goal in the waning moments of the Red Bulls’ 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place. The veteran defender, who filled in for a resting Wilman Conde at center back, rose up to meet a Joel Lindpere cross in the 86th minute, heading the ball home with authority to avert a second straight defeat for New York.
GOAL: Pearce ties it up
“It was a great cross and there wasn't much really for me to do in the position I was in,” Pearce told reporters of his first-ever MLS goal. “But I was able to finish it and we're able to leave here with a point.”
The headed goal, Pearce’s second across all competitions since joining the Red Bulls last month, was not the versatile defender’s only contribution. Pearce was fairly solid next to Markus Holgersson in central defense, helping keep the likes of Sébastien Le Toux and Eric Hassli at bay during their time on the field.
Pearce’s defensive performance, not to mention the team's, was a bit of absolution after a below average showing on Sunday in Chicago, where Pearce was deployed initially as a defensive midfielder before switching back to his more familiar left back spot.
“There was a chip on our shoulder,” said Pearce. “But it wasn't so much saying we need to make up for Sunday but we needed to go back to what we know makes us successful.”
What made the Red Bulls somewhat successful in their lone regular season trip to BC Place this season was their attacking mentality despite missing Designated Players Thierry Henry (calf) and Rafa Márquez (thigh). New York pushed for three points from the opening whistle and while they could have tried to settle for a draw late, they continued to push for the opening goal.
Disaster may have struck for New York when Martín Bonjour pounced on an opportunity inside the penalty area, but Pearce made sure the Red Bulls did not end their two-game road trip with another gut-wrenching loss.
“It's a resilient group of guys,” said Pearce. “The biggest factor was that nobody panicked. Everybody knew the objectives and that we were going to maybe get one or two more chances and luckily we were able to do that.
“That just shows the character of the group. You go through the ebbs and flows of the season and sometimes you're going to have off games. That's just part of the game and it's not so much about those bad days but how you respond to those, as the cliché goes.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.