Red Bulls fans could feel Chris Albright's pain as they watched an early lead slip away against the Chicago Fire. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
With a franchise record thirteenth tie, the New York Red Bulls grew their winless streak to six league games last night against the Chicago Fire. The Red Bulls have won just twice since April 30.
The goalkeeper drama continued as Backe turned to MLS pool goalkeeper Chris Konopka for the start over previous third choice Alex Horwath. Konopka was the fifth goalkeeper the Red Bulls have started in a league match this season along with loaned-to-Montreal Greg Sutton, an injured Frank Rost, and a late-from-returning-from-international-duty Bouna Coundoul.
The Red Bulls looked to be in control and struck early as Dane Richards assisted on Thierry Henry’s league leading twelfth goal of the season. A lot of credit is due to Dax McCarty on this one as well as he played a short pass square to Richards and made an aggressive run into the box drawing two defenders and opening up the space for Henry to curl a shot past a diving Sean Johnson just inside the far post.
On the first Chicago Fire goal, everything that could go wrong did. In the buildup, Chris Albright and Rafa Marquez tried to spring an offsides trap on the right side while Tim Ream was already caught back too deep defending Dominic Oduro in the center of the pitch. Roy Miller also lost a few steps tracking back on Oduro as he looked to the sideline for a non-existant offsides flag, and he never made up the ground to get in front of the pass that was finally knocked in for the goal.
The second Fire goal started with the same problem.
Rafa Marquez was once again playing a higher line than Tim Ream, so his attempt to catch Patrick Nyarko offsides was once again negated. Another problem with the second goal was that ultimately there were three Chicago Fire players in the box with only two Red Bulls defenders, while a handful of players (Marquez, Teemu Tainio and Mehdi Ballouchy) made no effort to contest Sebastian Grazzini who followed up his pass with a run that ultimately led to a rebound and goal.
The Red Bulls drew level in the 63' as Joel Lindpere volleyed a pass from Dane Richards far post and into the net. After not drawing a penalty kick from a possible hand ball in the box a few moments before, Lindpere ran right up to referee Jair Marrufo to give him a yellow-card inducing piece of his mind.
Other Red Bulls opportunities included a saved Rafa Marquez flick header off of a corner, a Tim Ream header just over the crossbar, a Dane Richards rocket off the crossbar, Thierry Henry blowing past three Chicago Fire defenders only to have his shot saved, and about a half dozen unfinished crosses into the box in the waning minutes of the match. Despite dominating almost all of possession the last twenty-five minutes, the Red Bulls weren't able to find a third goal and finished the match level with Chicago.
Despite New York taking twice as many shots as Chicago, both teams had the same number of shots on target (five). The Red Bulls controlled possession 66% - 34% and completed forty-two open field crosses compared to Chicago's six. New York played their style of soccer and commanded most of the game but if scoring first, going down 2-1, and then equalizing in the second half sounds like a familiar story line, it's because it's exactly what happened in their last home match against FC Dallas.
After the 3-1 home loss to Chivas USA back in May when everything seemed to start going wrong for New York, defender Tim Ream called out his teammates for being prematurely cocky without having won anything. Is that still happening when the Red Bulls come out flat or score early only to concede multiple goals?
In their first eight games of the season, the Red Bulls defense allowed just two goals. In their last eight games, they have allowed FIFTEEN. Whether it's personnel, game preparation, or their system, if New York continues to concede goals, they not only will fail to win MLS Cup, but they will be lucky to qualify for a generous ten-out -of- eighteen teams playoffs.