HARRISON, N.J. – From top to bottom, the New York Red Bulls were simply not good enough on Saturday and they know it.
The Red Bulls saw their four-game unbeaten run and 13-match undefeated streak at home in regular season play snapped at the hands of the Chicago Fire in a wild and painful 5-4 loss at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.
Afterwards, there was little talk from the club about how they nearly came back from a 5-2 deficit to salvage a result. Instead, the Red Bulls admitted over and over again that they clearly did not have enough quality on the night to see off a Fire team that entered the match winless.
“It wasn’t good enough. We gave them most goals, self-inflicted,” a clearly agitated head coach Mike Petke told reporters during his postgame interview. “It wasn’t good enough. We could talk all we want about the second half and late coming back and almost tying it, but when you’re down by three goals, of course that’s what you're going to do.
“We looked to push for goals and we got them, so I commend their effort, they worked hard at the end. But we should never have been in that position to begin with.”
Petke shouldered blame for the loss that saw the Red Bulls take a 2-1 lead into halftime before succumbing to four Fire goals in the first 20 minutes of the second half, but also revealed that New York did not work its gameplan around Rookie of the Year candidate Harry Shipp.
That proved to be a big mistake, as Shipp enjoyed a banner day to lead the Fire to victory. He scored three times – one on a cross four minutes into the game that was controversial due to an offside Mike Magee interfering in the play – and had an assist in what was his most impressive performance on the year.
“How do I prepare for a player that’s only played 10 games as a professional? He wasn’t a focal point for us,” said Petke. “He’s good on the ball, he has very good delivery, but he’s a young kid who I think has a bright future. He’s 10 games into his pro career, he has a good future [but] he wasn’t a focal point of our preparation. Perhaps, maybe, he should’ve been.”
For Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry, his club’s issues lied elsewhere. Henry reverted to one main point during his postgame interview, saying that New York have been showing a propensity for giving away cheap turnovers in recent weeks.
“We did it against Houston [on April 23],” said Henry. “After games, people think that I’m over critical. We didn’t get punished against Houston and everybody was celebrating the 4-0. It could’ve been 4-4. It wasn’t, but today [the Fire] put the ball in the back of the net so we lost 5-4.”
While the Red Bulls were clearly hurting in the locker room after the loss, they refused to get too low. Yes, this loss served as a reminder that there is work to do, but the Red Bulls are just going to take it on the chin and keep going.
“Yes, I’m going to go and have a vodka. That is a big positive,” said Petke when asked if there were any encouraging signs from this game. “Let me be clear, very clear. It’s tough for me to be critical of my team to be quite honest because every year you’ve got to allow yourself for a game like this, maybe two, and I’ve been there before.
“That’s what I told them in the locker room. … It’s hard for me to yell at them and hard for me to blow up. I’ve been on the losing end of a game like this and I’ve been exhausted at the end like these guys are because they did everything they could to come back. I commend that, but we’re a better team than that.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.