HARRISON, N.J. — Rich Balchan scored a dramatic equalizer in stoppage time on Saturday night, rescuing a point for the Columbus Crew on and leaving hosts New York stunned in front of 20,393 at Red Bull Arena.
It looked as if the Red Bulls were on their way to their first win in their last five games, but in the 92nd minute, Justin Meram blew by New York right back Matt Kassel and found fellow rookie Balchan making a hard run into the box. The defender then fired home a shot past a helpless Greg Sutton for the equalizer.
The match was an up-and-down one with just bursts of goal scoring opportunities. Columbus, themselves winless in their last four matches coming into the game, seemed static and consistently struggled to link some solid midfield effort with their forward play.
The Red Bulls opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a piece of vision and craft from Luke Rodgers. From inside his own half, Jan Gunnar Solli found the English striker running into space and hit him over the top of the Columbus defense.
Spinning and controlling, Rodgers had plenty of time on the ball to splice a pass across the penalty area to midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, who took a touch and then chipped a shot past hard-charging Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer. Ballouchy’s shot slowly rolled just inside the far post for his second goal of the season.
The Crew seemed without a way to answer for much of the match, despite some strong possession. The visitors did have several chances of their own in the first half and could have equalized in style in the 19th minute.
Off a Columbus free kick on the right flank that was whipped into the area, Red Bulls defender Stephen Keel rose and met the ball, popping up a header into the center of the area. Crew defender Julius James, up to provide a big body on the free kick, attempted a stylish bicycle kick that went just inches wide of the Red Bulls goal.
The second half bogged down into a midfield battle where both sides struggled to find rhythm in the final third. The Red Bulls, missing five regulars due to international call-ups, consistently seemed perhaps the better aggressor despite producing no true quality scoring opportunities.
The Crew produced just one shot on goal in the first half and seemed equally disjointed in the final third until their stoppage-time goal. The chances they did get were quality but often squandered by forward Andrés Mendoza.
In the 65th minute, Columbus midfielder Eddie Gaven threaded a pass into the box from the right wing that Mendoza, who was open dead-center and eight yards from goal, somehow managed to send well wide-right. Mendoza again victimized his own team in the 75th minute, when, despite again being wide-open just yards from goal, inexplicably sent his header 15 yards wide of the mark.
Columbus have a quick turnaround and will hope to build on the road point when they host Real Salt Lake on June 8. The Red Bulls will try to regroup back at Red Bull Arena with a home match on June 10 against New England.
NY -- Mehdi Ballouchy 2 (Luke Rodgers 3) 9
CLB -- Rich Balchan 1 (Justin Meram 1) 92+
CLB -- Rich Balchan (caution; Reckless Tackle) 32
NY -- Austin Da Luz (caution; Reckless Foul) 55
CLB -- Emmanuel Ekpo (caution; Reckless Foul) 72
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner (Shaun Francis 86), Dilly Duka (Justin Meram 74), Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel Ekpo, Rich Balchan, Tommy Heinemann (Jeff Cunningham 41), Andres Mendoza.
Substitutes Not Used: Kevin Burns, Andy Iro, Dejan Rusmir, Andy Gruenebaum.
New York Red Bulls -- Greg Sutton, Jan Gunnar Solli (Matt Kassel 28), Carlos Mendes, Stephen Keel, Roy Miller, Austin Da Luz, Mehdi Ballouchy, Teemu Tainio, Joel Lindpere, Luke Rodgers, Thierry Henry.
Substitutes Not Used: Corey Hertzog, John Rooney, Alex Horwath.
Referee: Niko Bratsis
Referee's Assistants: Craig Lowry; Claudio Badea
4th Official: Jorge Gonzalez
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Cloudy and 70 degrees