In isolation, the Red Bulls’ 2-2 draw Saturday with the Union is a good result. Getting points on the road has been a struggle this season for New York and coming away with a point against a rival for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference may end up being crucial come the end of the regular season.
But this one will feel bittersweet, especially with the way the game ended. After taking a 2-0 first-half lead behind goals fromPéguy Luyindula and Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls capitulated defensively and were denied the win in second-half stoppage time when Ibrahim Sekagya was judged by referee Allen Chapman to have brought down Union forward Pedro Ribeiro in the penalty box with a clumsy challenge. Up stepped former Red Bull Sebastien Le Toux to the penalty spot.
Sekagya claims he didn’t touch Riberio when the striker went down and thinks that there might have been some hometown bias that went the Union’s way on the call.
“I didn’t foul him,” he said to the media after the match. “ … I didn’t touch him, I just touched the ball. It was just the pressure of the referee that gave them the penalty. It was not a penalty.”
To be denied the three points so close to the end of the game must have been a cruel blow for Mike Petke. The Red Bulls’ head coach saw his team play well in the first half and, after Henry’s somewhat fortunate goal in the 40th minute, the away side looked poised to take a win back up the New Jersey Turnpike and record its third consecutive victory.
Unfortunately for New York, it went downhill from that point on. Ribeiro immediately replied to Henry’s goal in the 41st minute, getting Philly right back into the game with a close-range strike. Momentum was on the Union’s side and the home team took it to the Red Bulls throughout the second half. Once vibrant, the Red Bulls were left bunkered in their own half of the pitch and were put under duress by Philadelphia.
“You have to be honest, in the second half, they were all of us,” Henry said. “It’s obviously painful to see us concede a goal in the dying seconds of the game. But you can’t argue with the fact that you could see it was coming.”
While the draw will go down as an opportunity lost, the Red Bulls still have some positives to take out of the match. They were able to keep hold of fourth place in the Eastern Conference and are in position to make the playoffs if the season ended today. It’s something for the team to build on as it heads into the final six regular-season games.
“Overall, I think the draw is a fair result,” Henry said. “Now, we need to have a strong game in the [CONCACAF] Champions League and against Seattle at home. “
A LOOK AHEAD
It’s another week featuring a midweek encounter with the Red Bulls, as they head to Montreal to take on the Impact in CONCACAF Champions League. They finish the week with a home matchup against league-leading Seattle Saturday.
With the squad already stretched due to injury and fatigue, Petke will probably rotate and sit his best players for the match in Canada. Petke knows that qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League is second to making the MLS Playoffs and there’s no way he’ll jeopardize the team’s chances by fighting hard on two fronts.
Seattle is currently in a pitched battle with the Galaxy for the Supporters’ Shield title and will no doubt want to lay a marker against the current holders of the Shield Saturday. The Sounders are loaded with firepower up front and any team that can boast Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins up front is going to score goals.