The New York Red Bulls could have easily caved in. They were playing in one of the toughest venues in MLS without two of their best players, and had surrendered a goal just before the end of a first half they otherwise fared well in.
Mike Petke's side refused to lie down, however, and the end result was a point that may mean more for team confidence than it does in the standings.
Playing without Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave, the Red Bulls came from behind to grab a 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders on a rainy Sunday night at CenturyLink Field. Tim Cahill led the way for New York with a beautiful second-half goal that negated the penalty kick Brad Evans scored just before halftime, but the entire team effort from the resilient Red Bulls was something they could be delighted with, especially since not many gave them a chance to grab a result against the Sounders.
“I’m extremely proud of my guys, not only to get a result here but to play very good and to put pressure all over a phenomenal team like Seattle,” Petke told reporters after the match. “To have many scoring opportunities – and they had some as well, don’t get me wrong – but not to come in and be intimidated by this crowd, by the recent form of Seattle, which is phenomenal, and in a very stressful environment. I’m very proud of them.”
New York looked anything but intimated from the opening whistle. They took the game to Seattle whenever they had the ball, instead of sitting back and absorbing pressure like many had expected.
That did not stop the Sounders from taking the lead late in the first half after Markus Holgersson was whistled for a handball inside the penalty area. But the Red Bulls would not go down without a fight, looking much improved in the second half before Cahill ended some misfortune for New York (they hit the post twice in a span of a few minutes) with a splendid curling effort in the 76th minute.
“I thought we showed some tremendous character to come back,” said midfielder Dax McCarty. “Honestly, I thought we matched them blow for blow. When they came down, they had a couple chances, and we went right back down their throats and tried to play. We didn’t play for a draw.
“Maybe towards the end there it gets a little bit more defensive, you want to get out of there with a good result, but I thought for the most part, for 80 minutes we battled them toe to toe. To come in here and get a result in a place like this against a team that’s been on a good run, it’s a good feeling for us tonight.”
The draw leaves the Red Bulls in first place in the overall MLS standings, but the Sounders still have two games in hand to make up the one point that currently separates the two clubs. Still, a result on the road like this could do wonders for New York’s confidence as they inch closer to the playoffs.
“We had a lot of players step in due to other circumstances and this is what it means to be a team,” said Cahill. “This is the feeling you should have after every game, the feeling of reward, and I’m proud of the boys.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.