Difficult as it is, this column will resist the temptation to rate referee Fotis Bazakos' officiating as '0' and leave it at that; Bazakos made a bad day worse for the New York Red Bulls, but it would have been injustice of a different sort had the Houston Dynamo failed to win the game. Houston did not look better from the start, just after about 15 minutes or so - by which time the score was 1-1 and it was clear RBNY was struggling to contain Houston on the counter, and to stop giving Houston opportunities to counter.
Bazakos gave the Dynamo two goals it probably should not have been given: Damien Perrinelle was rightly upset that a clean tackle was whistled a foul in the box for no better reason than Mauro Manotas fell over the defender after the ball was lost; Andrew Wenger was offside and blocking Luis Robles' view of the shot that became Houston's third goal.
But it would be optimistic in the extreme to suggest RBNY would not have lost if those errors had not been made. The team was stubbornly committed to making errors of its own, and was fortunate to lose by only three goals in the end.
A bad day for the Red Bulls leads to some subdued Player Ratings.
STARTING XI#HOUvNY | #RBNY pic.twitter.com/5AfYBHY4LN— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) April 1, 2017
Luis Robles - 6
He allowed four goals, but he also made several key saves that kept RBNY in the game for a lot longer than was really deserved by a team seemingly determined to turnover the ball at every opportunity. And of the four goals allowed, it's hard to fault Robles: he couldn't stop an unmarked Dylan Remick's bullet header off a set piece, or a penalty, or a shot that he didn't see 'til late because of an offside player, or a very well-taken free kick. Robles wasn't exceptional on the day, but he wasn't bad - just overwhelmed.
These *were* some saves, though.#HOUvNY | #RBNY pic.twitter.com/gUMGpUXYFj— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) April 2, 2017
Connor Lade - 4
Sub-par day from Lade. His best moment of the day - a perfect cross to Derrick Etienne that the young forward headed off target - does not outweigh the ease with which Houston roamed down his flank.
Aurelien Collin - 5
Cutting Collin the slightest slack because injury forced him off the field in the 39th minute. The Red Bulls were still in the game at that point. The team's wheels started to come loose shortly after he was subbed out.
Aaron Long - 4
The entire back line was too often asked to put out fires started by loose play in the midfield, but it doesn't change the fact the entire back line had difficulty keeping Houston at bay.
Kemar Lawrence - 4
No one on the back line comes out of this game with a good rating.
Tyler Adams - 5
There was a moment late in the game where Adams defied several Houston efforts to knock him off the ball and dribbled to the edge of the area before finally laying the ball off as the Dynamo finally managed to topple him. And by the time he was back on his feet, the ball was traveling backwards again. Like the other Red Bulls, a few moments of individual promise never properly connected with the rest of the team.
Felipe - 4
He's the senior man in the backfield now Dax McCarty has gone, and on a night when the team's defensive shape and tactics sorely needed direction, there was little evidence of any decisive leadership at the back.
Daniel Royer - 4
It seemed there was always something missing from Royer's game on the night. If he made the right run, his touch let him down. If he had the ball under control, the pass was off. And on one memorably frustrating occasion, he pirouetted through Houston's back line with the ball at his feet, but watched his shot skew harmlessly into the Texas sky.
Sacha Kljestan - 5
The pass with which he set BWP free on goal to open the scoring seemed to say that the old Sacha was back. And for much of the game, it seemed as though RBNY was playing a 4-3-3, in part to get Kljestan into a role in which he could be more effective. But Kljestan seemed to spend most of his time ineffectively arguing with referee Fotis Bazakos and watching helplessly as Dynamo players surged by him on the break.
Derrick Etienne - 5
If his 31st minute header had gone in, maybe it's a different game for RBNY. But it didn't, and the missed chance ended up being emblematic of a performance that was promising but ultimately fell short of what it might have been had Etienne showed a little more composure in critical moments.
Bradley Wright-Phillips - 6
For one minute - until Remick equalized - he provided hope that RBNY might win. Credit him for that, at least.
Clinical.#HOUvNY | #RBNY pic.twitter.com/Yux1mk5kSA— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) April 2, 2017
Damien Perrinelle - 4
He was harshly called for a penalty almost as soon as he entered the game, and his match didn't really improve from that point forward.
Sal Zizzo - 4
I forgot he was on the pitch until I reached the "substitutes" section of this column.
Alex Muyl - 4
Late in the game, he got a pretty good through-ball which he managed to bounce back down the field with a clumsy first touch. He was no worse than any Red Bull on the day, but no better either.
Coach: Jesse Marsch - 3
Whatever Marsch's plan for this game was, it stopped working about halfway through the first half and he never really recovered from there. His task was complicated by some very poor refereeing, but his team lost its way and he did not appear to be able to put his players back on track.
Worse, there is still an obvious lack of sharpness about the squad - and Marsch has been saying that is the primary problem with the team since it started this season with CONCACAF Champions League in February. He's failing on his own terms at the moment: RBNY isn't executing as it should, and the last three games (two comprehensive road losses and a scoreless draw at home) make the narrow wins that opened the Red Bulls' 2017 league campaign look increasingly fortuitous.