This is a trend that is getting well out of hand. It is the trend that sees the New York Red Bulls find a way to get a two-goal lead, and then find a way to blow it at the end. This time, it was BMO Field and Toronto FC that saw RBNY's latest rise and fall. This time, the Red Bulls managed to get a two-goal lead twice, and still came way with one point rather than three.
Jozy Altidore was TFC's man-of-the-half-hour, leading a second-half fightback that saw his team surge from 3-1 down to 3-2 in the 68th minute, to 3-3 in the 86th, and from there to keep a firm grip on the momentum of the game through five minutes of stoppage time to the final whistle.
Alitdore's rallying cry was a fantastic free kick to cut RBNY's lead to one goal as the second half ticked past its midway point.
.@JozyAltidore https://t.co/s8qJVpgg93— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 18, 2016
Then, with four minutes left in regulation, Altidore used his strength to scrap for the ball and get a shot off on the turn. The ball took a slight deflection and rolled inside the far post. Robles was caught leaning the wrong way, tried to get back to the far post, but missed the save.
FT: @JozyAltidore's second-half brace brings @torontofc back for a 3-3 draw https://t.co/GFvz7REdqn— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 18, 2016
Jesse Marsch had little choicce but to spell out what had happened on the field, and what should have happened: "They started throwing everything at us like we've seen at times. You have two choices, to try and take pressure and see if you can defensively hold up or see if you can get another goal and put the game out of reach that way," he said.
"We had some chances to make it four, but it's just incredible because we shouldn't have to make it four, we should end 3-1, and been able to close the game out in a smart, competitive, tactical way out on top. We have shown weakness in these moments, it's hard because again we did so much in that game well."
And it is true there was a lot the Red Bulls did well. Once again, they had a great start to this match, even enlisting Toronto FC to help them score. The first goal was an own goal, as Steven Beitashour poked it home in the 12th minute.
Opening goal at BMO Field, @FeliMartins8 creates and puts in a dangerous ball#TORvNY#RBNY #REDTogether pic.twitter.com/5Uh1ZP6dOQ— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) September 18, 2016
It was a well worked goal from the Red Bulls as BWP played Felipe in behind the defense, and the Brazilian crossed to Daniel Royer for the tap-in - but Beitashour was there to accidentally put it inside his own net instead.
And then it was the Bradley Wright-Phillips show. RBNY's all-time top scorer bagged a brace to break some more records in Major League Soccer. In the 31st minute, he took advantage of a big mistake by Eriq Zavaleta, who was hustled by Royer, allowing BWP to skip in on goal with the ball at his feet. A quick chip shot at an oncoming Alex Bono and it was a quick two-goal lead for RBNY.
Pressure, finish, walk away. @TheRealBWP— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) September 18, 2016
Michael Bradley was able to pull one back in the 41st minute, raising concerns about the demise of another two-goal advantage.
Bradley pulls one back for TFC. 2-1! pic.twitter.com/Atak5WGJ8z— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) September 18, 2016
But the Red Bulls came out immediately in the second half with a mind to put things right. In the 48th minute, Alex Muyl squared to Sacha Kljestan in space, and the club's single-season MLS assists record-holder found its all-time leading scorer.
BWP. AGAIN. His 20th of the year gives RBNY a 3-1 lead. pic.twitter.com/c9osnHbZd2— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) September 18, 2016
For Bradley Wright Phillips that goal was his 20th of the season, and his 71st in all competitions for RBNY. He is the first player to score 20 regular-season goals on two occasions. He has come a long way since an unassuming start as a mid-season signing in 2013 who contributed a couple of goals in limited appearances to that Shield-winning campaign.
"Brad has been on fire playing so well, doing so many little things. I feel like I sit here and gush about him every week, but he's been really good, really sharp, really focused, really committed and the relationship between him and Sacha is just fantastic so those guys have both done really well," said Marsch.
Kljestan tallied his 16th assist of the season on BWP's second goal, and continues to press his case to keep his place in Jurgen Klinsmann's USMNT squad.
But Kljestan, BWP and the entire team know they have a serious issue to confront. This was the fifth time RBNY has let a two-goal lead slip away; the fifth time the team has got only a point from a game it had done more than enough to win. The Red Bulls will focus on the more positive aspect of their form - unbeaten in 12 consecutive league games - as they prepare for the three straight home games that are up next. The playoffs are about momentum, and the upcoming matches are a chance to get results on a more positive track.