The New York Red Bulls were ready to take the stench off last week’s stinker in Seattle, coming home to take on a struggling Real Salt Lake already on its second head coach of the young season. But in the end, RSL’s new man on the sidelines, Daryl Shore, walked out of Red Bull Arena without having immediately fixed his team’s scoring problem (RSL has scored once in MLS so far this season) but at least having picked up another point. If anyone came out of this game smelling a little sweeter, it was surely RSL’s stand-in head coach, Shore.
After the first forty-five minutes, it did seem that Shore’s Salt Lake was prioritizing avoiding a loss over bagging a win. A proliferation of fouls (RSL would ultimately win the foul count by 15-5) eventually turned referee Mike Penso a yellow card dealer, with five RSL players booked by the final whistle.
After surviving a few scares in the first half, the Red Bulls had control of most of the second 45, forcing several strong saves from ‘keeper Matt Van Oekel.
For Bradley Wright-Phillips, RSL’s strategy was familiar and one the Red Bulls know they will face repeatedly this year: an opponent set on frustrating RBNY and blocking the path goal by whatever means could be found to do so.
It felt like that sometimes but we've honestly got to do more. We're going to come up against that again this season. We've got to find ways to not let that affect us. At the end of the day it wasn't the prettiest game but we created chances. It looked like the Colorado game where we could've got a goal from one of the chances but we didn't.
Luis Robles had a similar opinion:
They played us pretty tough. I feel like their chances came off some of our miscues, but we dealt with it. We got the shutout, we got a point, and we'll just continue to move on.
The RBNY ‘keeper was asked to work hard for his shutout, with RSL’s best chance coming early in the game. In the 8th minute, it looked like a bad read or a bad pass was intercepted by Sebastian Saucedo, who charged at goal and nailed the post with his shot. The rebound fell to Yura Movsisyan, whose tepid shot was blocked on the line by Tyler Adams. Then Luke Mulholland skewed a shot/cross to nowhere in particular and the danger passed.
Robles was team captain in Sacha Kljestan’s absence, and took responsibility for handing RSL the opportunity: “I tried to play the ball to Damien (Perrinelle) and it had a little too much weight on it, maybe a little bit too much towards his feet,”he said. “[That] put them on the break...and the defenders did a great job.”
After a scoreless draw at home, there was of course the perception that the team missed its play-maker, Kljestan. Head coach Jesse Marsch wasn’t in the mood to accept that excuse:
Well, I mean, listen, Sacha's a huge player for us in terms of creating chances, but we had plenty of chances. We had plenty of chances. Like I said last year, we're going to come together, we're going to score goals. It's taking a little bit of time, but we all know what we have here and that it's going to come together.
Marsch acknowledged that a win would have been preferable to a 0-0 draw, but he saw positives:
Listen, it would have been nice to get a win tonight and three points because it continues to give us time to feel good, and feel positive energy with everything coming together, and knowing that it will come around eventually. We didn't manage to do that, but I still feel like there's a lot of good performances on the day.
I feel like Connor Lade came in and for 60 minutes was pretty much our best player. Played very well. I thought Aaron Long played really well. Kemar Lawrence comes back and does fairly well. Tyler Adams, thought Tyler Adams was very good, and Felipe's been very good all year.
Lade’s return was encouraging, especially since it came on the same day it was revealed Mike Grella will be out of action for several weeks.
But don’t be fooled by Marsch’s traditional post-match positivity: he wanted to win this one. A lighter moment in a frustrating game of near-misses at both ends came when the RBNY head coach decided to highlight RSL’s time-wasting by running out of his technical area to fetch a ball for defender Aaron Maund to throw in.
He was reprimanded, but he gave as good as he got.
And the Red Bulls gave as good as they got - which is to say they gave up a lot of chances for RSL to squander while missing their own opportunities at the other end.
The 0-0 scoreline doesn’t answer any of the questions over RBNY’s progress this season. The team’s strengths and weaknesses were both on display and, against an opponent with arguably far worse problems, they amounted to no more than a point on the day.