One step up, two steps back.
A week after riding their own second-half super sub to a momentum-shifting win over the Philadelphia Union, the New York Red Bulls wilted under the pressure from the Chicago Fire on Sunday in a puzzling 3-1 loss at Toyota Park.
And for head coach Mike Petke – who last week watched his team pick up its first win of a frustrating season this far – results like the one suffered on Sunday simply can’t continue.
“I’m very disappointed,” Petke said. “We’re going to lose games, that’s inevitable. But how we lost that game … it was sloppy. The quality that we have, the experience that we have … if I’m with a team in a rebuilding stage, with players who are rookies in the league, how mad could I be? But I’m with guys who are capable of so much more.”
The Red Bulls built an early lead on a 17th-minute goal from center back Jámison Olave, but then gave up three goals – including two in the final seven minutes to Fire substitute Maicon Santos – to peel the sheen right off Thierry Henry’s heroics in a 2-1 victory over the Union last week.
And while Santos’ late goals were the clinching moments that gave the Fire their first win of the season, it was Chicago midfielder Daniel Paladini who made perhaps the biggest play of the game. His leaping header in front of Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles just before halftime brought the hosts back to life at Toyota Park, where the Red Bulls have still never won since the stadium opened in 2006, a streak now spanning 10 matches.
“To let the game go into halftime 1-1, psychologically the momentum was with them coming into the second half for sure,” Petke said. “And they showed it.”
Petke praised the play of center back Markus Holgersson on an otherwise forgettable day for the Red Bulls defense, which included the Robles flub and a devastating cut move to the inside on Santos’ first goal in the 83rd minute that left Olave on the ground.
“I thought Marcus did well,” Petke said. “The other guys worked hard, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure the quality was there.”
The Red Bulls struggled to create genuine scoring chances after the break and had their best opportunity – a left-footed shot from second-half sub Henry – thump harmlessly off the far post and out of danger in the 68th minute.
“We just lost momentum in the second half,” said midfielder Tim Cahill, who contributed to the Olave goal that seemed to put the Red Bulls in the driver’s seat early on. “We started off really well ... but they got two goals on the counterattack, which was pretty harsh for us to take. We learned our lesson today that maybe we were trying to go and chase the game and win it, and in the end we got caught.”