CHESTER, Pa. – Perhaps in a different game, or with different personnel, New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch would have pushed his team forward after going up a man in the 72nd minute of a tie game.
But on Sunday against the Philadelphia Union, Marsch made the surprising move to instead take a more conservative approach to escape with a 2-2 draw against the 10-man hosts.
And he wasn’t particularly happy about it.
“Ridiculously, I had to go to five at the back when we were up a man because I didn’t feel like we could defend,” Marsch said. “For me, that was only to help manage the game tactically so that we could somehow stop giving away big chances. And even with that being said, we almost gave it away still.”
The Union certainly did have the majority of the chances after Ilsinho was shown a 72nd-minute red card with Chris Pontius, Tranquillo Barnetta and C.J. Sapong all threatening to score the game-winning goal.
Afterwards, Marsch blamed his own defenders as much or more than he credited Pontius, who scored two similar goals from the left wing vs. the Red Bulls in Philly’s come-from-behind 2-1 US Open Cup win on June 29th.
“Frankly, it’s not doing well on the back side,” Marsch said. “It’s partly Chris Pontius but it’s also just that whoever plays right back for us doesn’t do the job. If they do the job, then it doesn’t trouble us because they were late and asleep and don’t see that Chris is running. And all of a sudden, Chris has tap-ins. I mean, it’s as easy as can be for him. All he has to do is run down the field and tap the ball into the goal four times.”
Marsch wasn’t upset with every aspect of his team’s performance, pointing out that, unlike in the Open Cup loss, “the start of the first was good” with the Red Bulls threatening to score the third goal. And he was naturally pleased to see Sacha Kljestan score two first-half goals on the same day he was named to the AT&T MLS All-Star roster.
But that still didn’t take away the sting from blowing a two-goal lead and falling to 1-7-3 on the road, especially on the heels of their Open Cup loss to Philly less than three weeks ago.
“This is a good team at home,” Marsch said of the Union. “But it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like a loss.”
Luis Robles, who finished with six saves to help the Red Bulls avoid a loss, felt better about the result. But he, too, was discouraged that the team didn’t take advantage of going up a man with the game on the line.
“We are a man up and there’s a point in the hand so at the very worst we finish with a point,” the New York goalkeeper said. “But then there’s still got to be this idea of how do we push the game and how do we maintain possession and how do we create some chances, whether it’s off the counter attack or off set pieces. And I think therein lies the frustration that we were a man up and we had to go to five at the back because we couldn’t seem to get control of the game.”