HARRISON, N.J. – Sunday's match against FC Dallas might have been a game the New York Red Bulls would have lost in years past and head coach Mike Petke even admitted as much.
But thanks to an own goal, the Red Bulls emerged 1-0 victors as a mis-hit clearance from Dallas midfielder Erick proved the difference. The Brazilian's 76th-minute blunder broke the deadlock of a physical match that seemed certain to end in a scoreless draw after both teams missed quality chances. And it also helped extend New York’s current winning streak to four games.
As a result, the Red Bulls now find themselves in first place in the Supporters’ Shield race with little over a month left to play in the regular season.
“I knew absolutely that there was a goal in this game, at least a goal in this game. I was hoping the odds were in our favor to get it,” Petke told reporters during his postgame press conference. “We were knocking and knocking and knocking and they had two big boys in the center in there and we got after them a bit.
“Jonny Steele did well to get down the wing and knock it and we had countless other ones. … I’m proud of the guys that they played the whole game through and got the result.”
The decisive play was not much different than any other attack the Red Bulls had conjured against FC Dallas. Kosuke Kimura took advantage of a turnover and surged forward down the right flank before hitting Steele with a cross that the veteran midfielder then whipped across the face of goal.
Erick looked poised to deal with Steele’s cross cleanly, but with teammate Matt Hedges also racing in to clear the ball, he wound up rifling the ball into the back of his own net in what was a bizarre-looking own goal.
“I wasn’t really stunned, to be honest with you,” Steele said. “If you put the ball across the front of the net, you’ll never know what will happen. I think it was a good ball by Kosuke and a dangerous ball by myself across the front and it’s his bad isn’t it?”
Sunday's result now leaves New York in an advantageous position with four regular season matches remaining. The Red Bulls are in the top spot in the overall MLS standings with 51 points and they essentially control their own destiny the rest of the way as they try and capture their first-ever Supporters’ Shield.
“For us, it was a massive game, because if you look all over the conferences, both conferences,” said Tim Cahill, “you see the results go our way even though Kansas City won last night. So you have to try and take advantage of it.
“I thought in the first half we got close to scoring and we should’ve, but when the ball falls like that and it goes in their own net from an own goal you’ll take that happily.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.