The New York Red Bulls came down to Central Florida to continue their winning ways, but instead simply ended up continuing their recently-acquired unbeaten streak. RBNY has now gone three consecutive games without defeat, after the with Orlando City yielded a draw, 1-1. The Red Bulls looked the better of the two sides as they had more of the attack and were able to look dangerous inside the Orlando area.
The game's opening goal came in the 19th minute: Bradley Wright-Phillips converted for the third time in three games. It was also, incidentally, his third against Orlando City this season. If BWP is back to the scoring form he has enjoyed for the past two seasons, let's remember to thank Orlando for its help.
Not that Orlando had a great deal to do with BWP's goal. A quick pass from Sal Zizzo started the attack. He found Sacha Kljestan in space, who in turn put through a perfect ball, bypassing the defense as BWP chased.
Joe Bendik came off his line but was beaten by a confident one-touch finish. It was the only shot BWP had in this game, and - as it turned out - the only one he needed.
"It was the only thing I've done today, because the defenders played me well." said Wright-Philips, "It was hard to get any room and it was difficult to hit the target, great ball by Sacha as he was trying to find me."
The Red Bulls took a 1-0 lead into half-time, but Orlando City finally got on the board mid-way through the second half. In the 67th minute as Kevin Molino took advantage of a loose ball to tie things up.
Darwin Ceren sent a long ball towards Cyle Larin. The forward saw his attempted cross was blocked, but there was enough on the ball to carry it to Molino, who buried the ball to level the match.
Ten minutes later it looked like the Red Bulls were going to retake the lead. Kljestan got free from his defender and was able to wiggle into the area. A quick pass to a wide open Felipe caught the defense and 'keeper out of position. However, the shot was drilled into bodies on the goal line and deflected wide.
In the 85th minute, Orlando City was reduced to 10 men when Cristian Higuita was sent off for a two-footed, studs-up tackle on Kljestan. The challenge was clumsy and the truth is that anytime you make a tackle like that, you should know by now you're going to get sent off. Except perhaps in this game.
Referee Ted Unkel managed to hand out eight yellow cards and a red without revealing any consistency in his decision-making. Bad fouls went unpunished (Antonio Nocerino kicked Lloyd Sam in the head; Aurelien Collin and Brek Shea were both fortunate not to pick up second yellows), while seemingly more minor infractions (Kemar Lawrence's soft yellow towards the end of the game) were deemed card-worthy.
Nonetheless, the Red Bulls leave Camping World Stadium - or the Florida Citrus Bowl, as it should still be known - with a point and a three-match unbeaten streak.
"Well we knew that we were going to get Orlando's best." said Jesse Marsch, "They threw a lot at us, they were very aggressive, so we were in for a very physical game. The ref looked like he had a hard time managing it, but overall this is what big games are. You got to fight through a game like this and can you make a couple of plays."
Tonight was also the RBNY debut of Aurelien Collin as he was paired centrally with Ronald Zubar on the back line. Generally, he looked solid all match long, though it took him less than 20 minutes to collect his first booking as a Red Bull.
What did he think his play with Zubar in the game? "Great. We understand each other, this is our first game." said Collin, "We were very strong in defense and thought we did a good job. We need to continue to get stronger and we could've won the game, but I'm happy with the point."
So after a solid 90 minutes tonight, the Red Bulls head back home to get ready for Hate Week. Next stop is DC and the club's longest-standing rival.