COLUMBUS – The New York Red Bulls came to Crew Stadium missing many of their top players but nonetheless earned a point after holding Columbus to a 0-0 draw on Saturday afternoon.
Even without US internationals Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo and designated players Rafa Márquez and Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls put forth an organized defensive effort for their second shutout to start the season.
For the retooled Crew, which was coming off a 3-1 season opening defeat at D.C. United last week, the final result will be considered a disappointment after they had the better of the play and scoring opportunities. However, Columbus lacked sharpness and quality in the final third.
One of the best chances for the home team came in the 81st minute when second-half substitute Tom Heinemann whistled a shot past the far left post.
New York (1-0-1) nearly pulled out a victory in stoppage time but a low, 18-yard strike from Joel Lindpere was stopped by Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer, who needed just two saves for the shutout.
The Red Bulls were so depleted they requested to cancel the Reserve League match against the Crew scheduled to follow the MLS league meeting.
Five Red Bulls players were away on national-team duty, including four starters from last week’s 1-0 win over Seattle – goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul (Senegal), defenders Ream (USA) and Márquez (Mexico), midfielder Dane Richards (Jamaica) and forward Agudelo (USA).
Also, Henry (hamstring) and starting goalkeeper Greg Sutton (concussion-like symptoms) were out after featuring in the starting XI in the home opener. Alex Horwath, who signed with the club Friday, made his MLS debut in between the pipes and recorded five saves.
Horwath, who spent last season as an MLS pool goalkeeper after his career at Wisconsin, was tested early, although not severely, by a long range header from Chad Marshall off a free kick by forward Andres Mendoza in the seventh minute.
New York assembled a patchwork lineup with six changes featuring a center back pairing consisting of minor league veteran Stephen Keel and acting captain Carlos Mendes, who made his season debut. Danleigh Borman got the start in the midfielder and English forward Luke Rodgers, last of England’s Notts County, played his first ever MLS match.
For the Crew, who were missing defender Shaun Francis (hamstring) and forward Emilio Renteria (hamstring), Robbie Rogers made his return to the starting lineup at left midfield after coming off the bench last week. Rogers refused to speak to the media this week after speculation arose regarding whether or not the player requested a trade.
In another change for the Crew, central midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo was favored as a withdrawn forward over Jeff Cunningham and Kevin Burns – who missed a month of preseason with a rib injury – returned to anchor the midfield. Also, rookie defender Rich Balchan switched sides with Sebastian Miranda to settle at right back.
New York got their first opportunity in the 31st when Keel’s header off a corner by Teemu Tainio sailed over the bar. A few minutes later Tony Tchani forced Hesmer into a save with a 20-yard strike.
Crew midfielder Dejan Rusmir, who struggled in his MLS debut vs. DC, had three quality through balls in the first half before being subbed by Dilly Duka in the 56th minute. The last one sprung Ekpo into the box but the Nigerian’s shot from the right was denied with a diving, fingertip effort by Horwath in the 39th minute.
The Crew upped the pace in the second half, especially with Rogers on the left, but his final passes were off and rookie Bernardo Anor took over in the 67th minute to make his first appearance.
SCORING SUMMARY: None
New York Red Bulls -- Alex Horwath, Jan Gunnar Solli, Carlos Mendes, Stephen Keel, Roy Miller, Tony Tchani, Teemu Tainio, Joel Lindpere, Danleigh Borman, Mehdi Ballouchy, Luke Rodgers (Corey Hertzog 84).
Substitutes Not Used: Austin Da Luz, Matt Kassel, Tyler Lassiter, Carl Robinson, John Rooney, Jimmy Maurer.
TOTAL SHOTS: 7 (Joel Lindpere 2, Tony Tchani 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Joel Lindpere 1, Tony Tchani 1); FOULS: 13 (Joel Lindpere 4); OFFSIDES: 1 (Joel Lindpere 1); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Teemu Tainio 2); SAVES: 5 (Alex Horwath 5)
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Rich Balchan, Julius James, Chad Marshall, Sebastian Miranda, Kevin Burns, Robbie Rogers (Bernardo Anor 64), Dejan Rusmir (Dilly Duka 56), Eddie Gaven (Tommy Heinemann 73), Emmanuel Ekpo, Andres Mendoza.
Substitutes Not Used: Jeff Cunningham, Josh Gardner, Andy Iro, Alex Riggs.
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Emmanuel Ekpo 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Eddie Gaven 2); FOULS: 13 (Emmanuel Ekpo 4); OFFSIDES: 6 (Andres Mendoza 4); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Eddie Gaven 3); SAVES: 2 (William Hesmer 2)
NY -- Stephen Keel (caution; Tactical Foul) 29
NY -- Roy Miller (caution; Dissent) 89
Referee: Abiodun Okulaja
Referee's Assistants: Jason Cullum; Brian Poeschel
4th Official: Sorin Stoica
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Cloudy and 36 degrees