The New York Red Bulls 18-game unbeaten streak in the MLS regular season was snapped in Seattle, as the home team cruised to its first win of the new campaign. The Sounders were 3-1 winners. As the scoreline suggests, it was an ultimately comfortable rejection of RBNY’s effort to rain on the home team’s latest chance to parade its status as the defending MLS Cup champions.
The Red Bulls were first undone by a mistake. Damien Perrinelle misjudged the speed of Seattle turf and sent Luis Robles a hospital pass that offered more to the Sounders’ Jordan Morris than the unfortunate RBNY ‘keeper. Robles clipped Morris and the Seattle forward duly won the penalty the pass had invited.
In the 28th minute, it was Clint Dempsey who rammed the ball down the middle to put the home team in front.
But after the break, the Red Bulls found their way back into the game. In the 57th minute, Sal Zizzo fired a cross at a wide-open Bradley Wright-Phillips, and RBNY’s all-time top scorer did what he does best.
The goal was BWP’s 78th in all competitions for RBNY, and he is reportedly the third-fastest to 70 MLS regular-season goals in league history.
But nine minutes later the Sounders once again found a way to bamboozle the Red Bulls. Joevin Jones outwitted Sal Zizzo at the byline; Nicolas Lodeiro made a near-perfect cross to the front of goal; Jordan Morris converted from close range.
It was a pretty goal facilitated by some ugly defending, and RBNY never really looked in the game after it went in.
The capper came in the 79th minute. Jones - who had a memorable match - fired a low shot toward goal, but Harry Shipp gave it a decisive touch, redirecting the ball just as Robles had committed to the original trajectory.
This is only the third game of the MLS season. The Red Bulls have clearly been struggling to find the fluency necessary to make their newly-preferred 4-2-2-2 formation work. On the bright side, Mike Grella is proving a positive influence: the team has scored three goals this season when Grella has entered the game as a sub.
Growing pains are to be expected - this is the same experiment that was abandoned after last season’s 1-6 start. This year, in MLS at least, the team has managed to get a couple of wins on the board before coming undone in Seattle. The loss need not be terminal to the team’s current tactical ambitions. But the challenge to make the new look work won’t ease up any time soon.
Next week, RBNY takes on slumping Real Salt Lake at home, but will itself be without Sacha Kljestan (USMNT), Michael Murillo (Panama), and Derrick Etienne (Haiti). The unbeaten streak is ended and a short-handed squad will have to set itself to starting a new one on March 25.