NEW YORK, N.Y – A point on the road notwithstanding, the New York Red Bulls weren’t ready to smile over Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw at New York City FC, as part of Heineken Rivalry Week. Instead, the locker room was downright glum.
Up two men and having scored first, the Red Bulls looked slow and lacking imagination for much of the second half, in fact looking like the lesser team and even letting in an equalizer a few minutes after halftime. In a match that could have tied them atop the Supporters' Shield race and potentially created four points of separation between themselves and NYCFC, the Red Bulls instead squandered a tremendous chance to get a win.
Head coach Chris Armas, now 0-1-1 in the NY Derby since taking over in July, tried to take a balanced outlook even as his locker room seemed despondent about dropping two points.
“We're not going to get emotional about this. We went to Vancouver, got a point. We came to New York City where they haven’t lost and got a point. When things were level, we thought we were the better team. That’s that,” Armas said.
“One point on the road, tough place to play, a derby match, which they're always interesting. And then there's the other side, we're up two guys and couldn't get the game winner so there will be some initial frustration -- but short lived -- and on to the next one Sunday.”
The Red Bulls started well with a good first half. Their efforts were rewarded as they scored first off a brilliant Bradley Wright-Phillips header in the 37th minute and then went up a man following an Eloi Amagat red card. Rather than press the match, they instead looked tepid, despite being up two men with another red card to NYCFC at the midpoint of the second half.
Last weekend, they got a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw at the Vancouver Whitecaps despite being down a man at the time.
On Wednesday, holding the advantage, they got bottled up and frustrated against a determined rival.
“Of course, it’s really disappointing today…today it feels like a loss and Vancouver it felt like a win. Especially with being a man up, two men up, we just were not able to create enough clear chances and I think that was the problem,” midfielder Daniel Royer said.
“I think each and everyone in the second half were not on top. I think first half was great. The second half, for whatever reason and I really don’t know, I have to analyze it – but that was not the case. Defensively, we conceded which was disappointing as well. On the other hand, we should create chances as well.”
It was a halftime adjustment from NYCFC that helped frustrate the Red Bulls, even as they anticipated the move. Rather than pack in their midfield and try to bunker down, Dome Torrent went with a 4-3-2 that occupied the Red Bulls' backline with two high players. It worked, as David Villa equalized in the 53rd minute and then NYCFC continued to look dangerous. Defender Aaron Long said that the Red Bulls anticipated NYCFC might go with that look, but the midfield still struggled to keep pace.
Calling the result “more frustrating than anything,” midfielder Tyler Adams said that the Red Bulls resorted to long balls rather than their usual, fluid movement. He also said that they perhaps sat back too much with not enough players shuttling between the lines.
“We were probably better when they had 11 players on the field. They go down a man and they kind of lured us into a game that is just not our game. We had a little bit more possession but we really didn’t create any chances with it,” Adams told MLSsoccer.com.
“It’s s bit frustrating on the day that we just weren’t sharp enough in the final third, maybe we were just lacking ideas. It was just one of the days…they go down a man and you’re thinking that we should be dominating and creating chances. In the end, they defended well in their nine-man block; it was hard to create chances,” he added.