Another late collapse and another 2-points surrendered for the 2016 New York Red Bulls does not tell the story of the game. A lot of attention will be paid to the ref(s) this week, but the Red Bulls were more than capable of winning and losing the game all on the own. LA Galaxy, riding high on a 7-game unbeaten streak, nearly saw their first loss at home since last October. Earning a draw against a tough opponent should be celebrated. It was the method in which the draw was earned that spurred that ugly old feeling within the Red Bulls’ fan base once again. This is what I saw:
Red Bulls Draw Galaxy. Three Things I Noticed
The health of a squad is crucial to its ambitions. Last week, Chicago managed to send Dax McCarty to the sidelines for over a month. Now, the Red Bulls find themselves in a peculiar spot once again. Damien Perrinelle, Connor Lade, and Bradley Wright-Phillips all left the game with injuries before the 50th minute. Of the three, it would be easy to point to BWP as the injury, that if it is long term, would hurt the most. However, Lade could be the difference between winning MLS Cup and making the playoffs. No doubt, these come off as delusions of grandeur. Be sure, I mean exactly as I say.
Connor Lade has had a revival season for the Red Bulls. Many had written the diminutive NJ native off as surplus after his playing time had all but evaporated under three different coaches. Ever the fighter, Lade waited patiently for his chance and delivered in a big way. Arguably, Lade has been the NY’s best fullback since becoming a starter due to Kemar Lawrence’s injury during the Gold Cup. Jesse Marsch has relayed on a number of occasions just how much he appreciates what Lade brings to the table. Lade left LA on a stretcher, a terrible sign for an early diagnosis.
As Dax McCarty sat with crutches on the bench, Sean Davis scored his first MLS goal. The pressure on his shoulders over the final stretch of the season no doubt weighed on him. Davis stepped into the starting XI as a replacement for the aforementioned Ginger Ninja. Filling the shoes of a team regular is no simple task. Filling the shoes of the team captain who’s fiery spirit is the embodiment of the blue collar Red Bulls is a much harder job. Davis, Felipe, and Sacha Kljestan all had 43 passes on the night. Davis completed 95%. Felipe and Sacha just under 85% each. Those are tremendous numbers for the 2nd year academy product. Sean continues to mature on the field, and no doubt will continue to turn in these strong performances for years to come.
Gonzalo Veron had an opportunity to show he deserves more playing time in the wake of the signings of Daniel Royer and Omer Damari. Veron has struggled this season for playing time because of form and fitness. When he has seen the field, he has not impressed. Over the last three weeks however, Veron has seemed to turn a corner. He still carries some obvious limitations in his game, but when he comes into a game, it changes. His speed on and off the ball make him a threat and helps open up space by drawing defenders. Whether he remains in the Red Bulls future plans is up in the air, but he is making a strong argument now for inclusion.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sal Zizzo had a forgettable showing off the bench. His instincts to continually clear the ball instead of maintain possession in the final 15 minutes led to wave after wave of attacks from LA, and eventually the game winner. On the game winner, Zizzo was pinched into the center inexplicable marking Robbie Keane instead of covering at the backpost. Ashley Cole settled and finished easily. Sean Davis may share some responsibility, but he should not be covering for the fullback in the box.
How Jeff Larentowicz was allowed to walk away from the game without so much as a yellow card is beyond me. He had two late and dangerous challenges that seriously endangered the opposing player. I know a lot of focus will be on the penalty no-calls this week, but Hilario Grajeda’s reckless game management was perhaps the worst showing of a referee in recent memory. There is no excuse for coming in late on a tackle studs up on a plant foot. Grajeda’s failure to hand Larentowicz any punishment for said tackle allowed for a second studs up late challenge that nearly injured Kemar Lawrence. While there was at least one other dangerous tackle in the game, these two were by far the worst. That neither incident saw a card is both shocking and appalling. I hope the disciplinary committee takes strong action in both cases.
A point on the road is a point well earned, but the propensity to allow the lead to slip away in 5 of their last 6 away games is just plain bad. When NY return home this week, they will face a Montreal Impact team that is every bit as hot, although a bit less consistent, as LA. Montreal have lost just once since May 28th and have games in hand on just about every other eastern conference team. The Red Bulls home form will be critical to finishing the season in the top 2, but doing so against Montreal with a mounting list of injured players is a difficult challenge.