You could say that things returned to normal for Real Salt Lake and the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. After winning a meaningless exhibition tournament last weekend in the UK, the Red Bulls were supposedly coming back full of confidence and excitement to finish off their remaining MLS season despite winning just two league games in the last three months. Real Salt Lake had lost their last two against Columbus and Sporting Kansas City and were desperate not to drop any additional points, especially at home.
Teemu Tainio was a last minute scratch from New York's starting lineup due to flu-like symptoms, so Hans Backe once again elected to go with the disastrous midfield combination of Dax McCarty and Mehdi Ballouchy. Unsurprisingly, Real Salt Lake dominated from the opening whistle. RSL's first goal came off a straightforward corner kick played into New York's box by Kyle Beckerman and right to Nat Borchers, who managed to squeeze in a header despite Juan Agudelo covering the near post.
Right before halftime, Marquez and Lindpere couldn't quite connect on a lofted pass that was intercepted and laid off to Luis Gil who put it home from distance past a frozen-to-his-spot-like-Greg-Sutton Frank Rost.
The Red Bulls played so poorly in the first half that Hans Backe did the unthinkable, making two adjustments at halftime brining in Bouna Coundoul and Stephen Keel for the injured Frank Rost and ineffective Dax McCarty. This allowed Marquez to move up into the midfield, where he should have began the match in the first place.
Despite relatively improved play in the second half while Real Salt Lake sat back and let their defense do most of the work, the Red Bulls were not able to capitalize with many chances. Juan Agudelo had New York's best chance of the night as his unmarked header off of a corner kick would have easily beaten Nick Rimando had it been on target.
Finally, off another RSL corner kick Roy Miller was called for a handball in the box and Alvaro Saborio cooly slotted home the penalty kick past a diving Bouna Coundoul for a final score of 3-0.
Wiith virtually nothing positive to say about the team's performance tonight besides maybe Chris Albright's first seventy-five minutes on the field, the Red Bulls will await word on the severity of the injuries to Frank Rost and Jan Gunnar Solli as they regroup and prepare for their next match at home against the Chicago Fire. Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream will have a busy week away from the team, however, as they travel to Philadelphia as part of the first group called up for national team duty under new USMNT head coach Juergen Klinsmann.
With their loss to Real Salt Lake and other results from around the league, New York remains in eighth place overall for the season but has four teams, all having played fewer matches, tied with or less than three points behind them (a number that will likely go up to five as Portland and San Jose will play early into Sunday morning here on the East Coast).
Are you ready to give up hope on the Red Bulls this season or are you holding on through August? What is your honest assessment of what "a successful season" would be for the club at this point? Let us know what you think in the comments below.