HARRISON, N.J. – There are no two ways about it. This was a massive win for the New York Red Bulls.
After enduring a roller coaster of emotions, the Red Bulls finally saw off a pesky Real Salt Lake side, 4-3, in a thrilling match at Red Bull Arena that just might stand as the game of the season to date.
The victory – which came thanks to a Dax McCarty header in the 94th minute and only after New York conceded twice late to fall behind, 3-2 – was the Red Bulls’ first over RSL since 2008 and served as a testament to the club’s character under rookie head coach Mike Petke.
It was also the kind of win that the Red Bulls said could serve as the turning point for a team that has been largely inconsistent during the first half of the year.
“It says a lot. It says a lot,” McCarty told reporters. “It says that you better not be Miami Heat fans and leave before the final whistle. I’m just proud of the team. You have a lot of teams that would probably fold there and say, ‘Listen, Salt Lake is a veteran team. They’re one of the best teams in the league, they’re going to lock it up and you’re not going to get many chances’
“But we created and earned everything we got tonight. … At the end of the day, it’s a result that can push a team forward. It’s a result that can define a season.”
Though Saturday's win may be the sweetest up to this point in the campaign for the Red Bulls, it did not mark the first time the club regrouped to pick up three points after conceding late. In a 2-1 road triumph against Toronto FC on April 27, the Red Bulls conceded a late equalizer before Tim Cahill rescued his club with an even-later winner.
“This team’s got a lot of character,” said Cahill, who fought off a fourth-minute injury vs. RSL to score the opener in the 11th minute. “If we would have lost this game today, [the media] would have thrown the kitchen sink at us and there’s a lot of pressure going into the [upcoming] game against Kansas City, because that’s a massive game as well.
“Overall, when you look at it, it’s just such a great game to be a part of. After I got the knock, I just didn’t want to miss the game. They’re the best team in the league and you don’t want to miss games like that. Now, you look at it and it’s all worth it in the end. A really good game, I’m really happy.”
Naturally, Petke shared in the players and fans’ bliss. He did not go as far as McCarty in declaring the game a season-defining moment in his postgame press conference, but it was not hard to notice just how delighted Petke was with his team’s never-say-die attitude in a remarkable victory.
“My job is ecstasy and agony. There’s no in between,” said Petke. “This week I’ll be happy. For that moment after they scored I was miserable. The moment we scored to tie it up I was happier. The moment we scored I was very happy.
“I have five days until Kansas City. That’s my life. I’m very proud of these guys for coming back like that and for the effort they put in.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.