HARRISON, N.J. – It has been the story of the New York Red Bulls' 2014 campaign: basic mistakes costing precious points.
On Sunday, no one in particular was to blame. Errors came at both ends of the field, and the end result was a 2-0 loss to rivals D.C. United and a place below the "red line" in the Eastern Conference.
Luis Silva and Eddie Johnson took advantage of slack defending to put away both second-half goals for United, and the attack, despite generating an 18-9 shots advantage failed to break through. League-leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips had five shots on the afternoon, including two on the doorstep that were thwarted by goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
“They took their two opportunities that we pretty much gave them and we had a number of opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net and we just weren’t able to today,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke. “The first half, we hit the post, two open headers in the [six-yard box], two shots from inside the [18-yard box] right to the goalie, then a miscommunication on the first goal and the second goal is garbage time stuff.”
New York struggled to find a rhythm early in the match, deferring to a "Route 1" style that yielded little in the way of chances. As the game wore on, however, the veteran-laden Red Bulls found their footing and created some chances that they would normally put away.
Wright-Phillips was first denied superbly by Hamid on a snap-down header from in close before Tim Cahill was agonizingly denied by the far post. All in all, the Red Bulls were in control, and things looked promising going into the intermission.
But any momentum they had disappeared in the 57th minute, when Silva raced onto a flicked long ball. New York center back Ibrahim Sekagya was in position to make a play on the ball, but he let up on his tracking run as goalkeeper Luis Robles charged out toward the ball.
“It was my fault on the first goal," Robles said. “It was my ball. It was coming forward and instead of skipping like our grass [at Red Bull Arena] – it’s a little different – it caught and just that half-second of catching threw my timing off.”
New York had plenty of time to make up for Robles's error. But the Red Bulls' high-scoring attack -- 3rd best in the Eastern Conference -- could not muster up the necessary bit of quality in the final third to pull level. Johnson then put the game out of reach after Ambroise Oyongo – playing as a makeshift right back following Chris Duvall’s injury – left the striker onside.
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Petke also did not help matters by waiting until the 90th minute to insert creative midfielder Peguy Luyindula, a player seemingly perfect for a close game that needed a creative spark.
The good news for New York is that they remain only two points out of the final playoff spot and have a game in hand on fifth-placed Columbus Crew. Still, the Red Bulls are left to rue their own errors.
“At the end of the day, it’s a lost opportunity,” said Petke. “… We gave them some goals. Again, it’s our individual mistakes that put us away.”