HARRISON, N.J. — Despite lifting the Atlantic Cup for having taken the season series on aggregate with D.C. United, the Red Bulls didn’t feel like celebrating after their 1-0 loss on Saturday night. New York were left ruing their chances as they lost for the second time in their last three games, this time after a 19-9 edge in shots and an advantage in possession led to nothing.
In their win at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night, a sixth place D.C. United side that hadn’t won in league play since May 29 beat their I-95 rival to the north, a Red Bulls side who sat atop the Eastern Conference at the beginning of the night.
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And after a loss that head coach Hans Backe said “should end nil-nil,” New York didn’t want to talk silverware.
“We didn’t even know about it,” goalkeeper Greg Sutton told MLSsoccer.com. “Obviously, it didn’t mean that much to us.”
After humiliating United on the road in a 4-0 win on April 29, New York came out flat on Saturday night. Even with their largest home crowd of the season behind them and their oldest rival on the field, the Red Bulls looked like a shell of the team that beat Toronto 5-0 on Wednesday night. Not even a goal by former teammate Dwayne De Rosario, scored in the 61st minute, seemed to wake the side from their slumber.
New York could have potentially slipped to second place in the Eastern Conference with the loss (they didn't, after Philadelphia's 0-0 draw in San Jose pulled the Union even with the Red Bulls), something that was clearly on their minds.
“The points add up,” defender Carlos Mendes told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s not that the cup doesn’t mean anything, but all the points matter right now. So in the end, we’d rather have the win than the cup.”
The loss to their rivals comes at a time when there should be no excuses for New York. After a rough last month battling injuries and international call-ups, New York had nearly a full squad at their disposal for their last two matches. They showed their potential on Wednesday night in getting three points from Toronto in emphatic fashion, but they followed with Saturday’s lackluster and flat showing which led many players to walk directly off the pitch in disgust, failing to acknowledge the crowd.
And unlike last year, following a scoreless home tie when then Red Bulls captain Juan Pablo Ángel did his duty and posed for photos with the supporters while holding the Atlantic Cup, there was no trophy presentation following this loss. Instead, just a simple announcement over the speaker system that the Red Bulls had taken the cup for a second consecutive year.
“Obviously it would have meant more if we had won or even tied,” midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy said. “It means little to us, it means that we were better than D.C. United for two games. It doesn’t give us three points right now.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer