The New York Red Bulls might not have picked up their first win of the season, but that still did not stop them from feeling plenty pleased after registering their consensus best performance in the third match of the season at Toyota Park on Sunday.
The Red Bulls fell behind in the opening minutes, but dug deep to pick up a hard-fought 1-1 draw at a stadium that has historically not been kind to them. And the Red Bulls’ showing had everyone from head coach Mike Petke to his players feeling content.
“I was very, very happy and satisfied with our effort and the way we started the game and played throughout,” Petke said following the draw that moved New York to 0-1-2. “It’s something we really haven’t seen over the last few games. Their effort, their mindset, if you will, was good. I think we should’ve had three points, but Chicago fought hard as well, so we walk out of here with a point. But it’s a very positive step in the right direction.”
From a performance standpoint, there were plenty of positives. Not only did New York bounce back shortly after conceding a 6th-minute opener to Jeff Larentowicz on a corner kick, but they dominated possession for large stretches and also defended competently for the second straight week.
The latter development was especially welcoming given how the Red Bulls’ defense struggled in their shocking 4-1 season-opening loss in Vancouver. The club looked better defensively in Week 2’s 1-1 home draw with the Rapids, but the jury was somewhat still out on the back line heading into the match vs. the Fire, especially without suspended centerback Armando.
“The reason we’re so pleased is because we’re seeing positive progress in just the way that we’re playing,” said goalkeeper Luis Robles. “I think defensively we were solid. The back line, today, the shape was good. We knew they were going to try and play a lot of balls over the top, we knew that Quincy [Amarikwa] was going to be a handful.
“But with the way the guys were able to shift and transition, it made my job a lot easier and then the way Dax [McCarty] clogged up the middle, winning a lot of 50-50 balls, a lot of loose balls. Sure, it’s a little disappointing we didn’t get the full three points, but those are the type of performances that not only we can live with, but we know we’re headed in the right direction.”
There were areas where the Red Bulls could have been better on Sunday, especially with their execution in the final third. New York put just four shots on target vs. Chicago and they have only scored a combined three goals in three games this year, numbers that obviously are not high enough considering they were the top-scoring team in 2013.
Performances like Sunday’s, however, are reason to believe the goals and wins are not far behind.
“It’s a lot better than it was the first two games,” said McCarty, who scored the equalizer in the 21st minute. “We defended very well as a team and we attacked a lot better than we have in the past two games. Overall, a very improved performance than the other two … Overall, I think we’re satisfied.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.