For the second time in a week-and-a-half, the New York Red Bulls suffered a demoralizing defeat. This time, though, it came at the hands of one of their fiercest rivals.
After enjoying a week’s vacation following their 2-1 loss at home in league play to the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 1, the Red Bulls returned to the field on Wednesday night only to have the New England Revolution eliminate them from the US Open Cup with a 4-2 triumph at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium on the campus of Harvard University.
New York were without a handful of their key starters, including Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Jamison Olave. But they still fielded a talented side that showed signs of rust and struggled for large stretches in the game before eventually being ousted from the tournament by their northern neighbors, who went up early in the match and never trailed.
“This is one of those things, to be honest with you, I’m sweeping under the rug [with] the circumstances surrounding the game,” head coach Mike Petke told reporters after the game. “The fact is we lost to a mediocre team because we were way less than mediocre tonight. It happens.”
While Petke did not directly point the finger at the team’s recent time off, he did admit that some of his players weren't good enough from a tactical standpoint. The Red Bulls fielded a 4-3-3 in the first half, but that formation – which proved fruitless early in the season before Petke opted to go with a more traditional 4-4-2 – only lasted until halftime before Petke threw on forward Péguy Luyindula and switched to a 4-4-2.
“I didn’t think that our outside midfielders grasped exactly what we were trying to accomplish,” said Petke. “I think they were way too deep at times. There was big gaps. [Forward Fabián Espíndola] was alone up top a lot of the time, especially in the first half.
“Second half, we bring on Péguy to give Fabián a bit of help up there, push Eric [Alexander] back out wide and flatten it out and go for it. It looked good up until the last 20 minutes or so.”
The Red Bulls did not solely blame the loss on their poor play. Petke also gave credit to the red-hot Revolution for making things hard on New York.
Still, the overall general feeling from the New York camp seemed to be that they had enough talent on the field to win but didn’t.
“To me, they’re the same team as when we beat them 4-1 and they’re the same team as when we tied them 1-1,” said Petke, referencing the two previous meetings this season. “But they have confidence, they’re playing with confidence right now. That’s a dangerous team. They have talent, don’t get me wrong.
“We came in here, wanted to clog up the middle a little bit. They have one guy up front, not give him any room to play, and it didn’t work out for us in the end.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.