RED BULLS’ DEFENSE GETS BURNED BY FIRE

Soccer games with nine goals are thrilling for viewers and spectators, but for coaches, sometimes they’re ones to forget.

Mike Petke will be hoping his Red Bulls will forget last Saturday’s 5-4 defeat to the Chicago Fire, a match that featured disastrous defending by the home side. After taking a 2-1 lead heading into the halftime break, New York surrendered four goals within a 15-minute span in the second half and had its 13-game home unbeaten streak snapped by a formerly winless Fire squad. The Red Bulls showed character by rallying and pulling within a goal late in the match, but they were unable to complete the comeback.

Petke didn’t hold his tongue during his post-match interview with Tina Cervasio and was critical of his team’s performance.

“Chicago played like a team that needed the win – and they do, this is [its] first win of the season,” he said. “We played like a team that thought we were going to win at home because we’re the Red Bulls and we’re playing at Red Bull Arena. So, it wasn’t good enough.”

To Petke’s count, New York inflicted three wounds on to itself during that chaotic spell during the second half. The Fire pressed hard and high, swarming the Red Bulls in the final third and forced turnovers that led to easy scoring opportunities. Harrison Shipp was one of the Fire players all too happy to take advantage, as the rookie forward recorded his first MLS hat trick in the tilt.

“We just made mistakes and anytime you give a team a couple of balls in the box, uncontested, guys are good enough to finish that,” Dax McCarty told the media following the match.

While bitterly disappointed, the Red Bulls were willing to chalk up the defensive effort against the Fire as a nightmarish game that they will prevent from happening again.

“We are still a good team, it’s not a great result; obviously,” McCarty said. “Just because of one bad game or one bad… 20 minutes, where they just put basically on frame and score four goals. I don’t think you’re going to see a game like that ever again.”

A LOOK AHEAD: AT TORONTO FC

It’s set to be a star-studded affair north of the border Saturday as the Red Bulls take on Toronto FC at BMO Field. Complete match coverage begins at 4 PM on MSG+.

The darlings of the offseason, TFC splashed the cash during the transfer window and brought in three international-caliber players with big-name pedigrees – Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Julio Cesar.

So far, the results have been mixed. After beginning the season with two consecutive victories, Toronto has not won a match since April 5. Defoe, a former star with the English Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur and the England National Team, began the season on fire with three goals, but missed three matches due to a hamstring injury. The striker did make his return last week against New England and is expected to be fit for Saturday’s match.

But the hottest English striker in MLS is Bradley Wright-Phillips, the league’s leading scorer with nine goals. Fresh off scoring his second hat trick this season, Wright-Phillips will be looking to continue his rich vein of form in Toronto.

New York will be shorthanded and without the services of Tim Cahill and Roy Miller, as both Red Bulls headed for provisional World Cup camps with Australia and Costa Rica. With two of his preferred starting XI out, Petke will be forced to make changes. The smart money is on Péguy Luyindula to replace Cahill in midfield and former TFC man Richard Eckersley to be installed at right back, with Kosuke Kimura switching flanks and playing in Miller’s place at left back.