After a blazing start to 2022 on the road, the New York Red Bulls are still waiting for their first win at home.
A late Darlington Nagbe scuff across the line canceled out a late Red Bulls goal to leave a tight Saturday afternoon affair in Harrison at a stalemate. Gerhard Struber lamented his team’s lack of intensity in a game at against a top-of-table foe and hoped his team would use the strange result as a “learning moment” going into the international break.
Struber began the overcast day rolling out the same lineup that fell 1-0 to Minnesota last week in a 5-4-1 formation with Lewis Morgan and Omir Fernandez as attacking midfielders under Patryk Klimala. New York managed to maintain possession and carve out chances in the game’s opening ten minutes, with a shallow cutback from Klimala that trickled past the back post unmet registering as the best Red Bulls chance early.
But Caleb Porter’s experienced Columbus side would claw back in the later passages of play in the first half as New York’s shape and aggression slipped. Though the game went to the break scoreless, Struber could be seen remonstrating with several of his players in the late moments of the half as Columbus maintained more possession.
“In the first half I thought we had good shape but not so much the intensity that we need. Columbus is a team with a high quality and we need every single player at their personal limit in these games.”
Struber was clearly unhappy with the same lineup’s adjustments in the early moments of the second half and went to his bench quickly. Patryk Klimala, who was chided by Struber in the first half for not making diagonal runs wide, was replaced rather than joined by Tom Barlow up top in the 52nd minute. The game would sustain its cagey nature through the following 20 minutes of play, with persistent foul calls from referee Joe Dickerson clearly throwing New York off its game, with Frankie Amaya earning a yellow for dissent in the 64th minute.
But soon after the game would break into a distinct rhythm for its remainder, as New York created waves of possession that were frequently countered with venom by Columbus. Crew substitute Gyasi Zardes had a shocking miss on a breakaway in the 65th minute before a more forgivable wide shot about ten minutes later. Former Red Bull Derrick Etienne Jr would force a save from Carlos Coronel on his own breakaway in the 78th minute, but missed an empty net with the rebound.
New York stayed strong despite the counter-attack scares, and were eventually rewarded in the 84th minute. A Lewis Morgan corner kick was nodded down by Sean Nealis before a game of pinball ensued in front of Eloy Room’s Columbus net. Aaron Long and Tom Barlow sandwiched the service for Nealis, but the ball seemed to come off a Columbus player before trickling into the net for a 1-0 New York lead.
The Red Bulls would spend the next ten minutes attempting to see out their first home win, but unfortunately Columbus had one more counter attack left in them in the game’s final moment. A Kevin Moreira cross was met with a collision of bodies in Carlos Coronel’s box before Darlington Nagbe shoveled the loose ball across the goal line to equalize. Dickerson would blow his whistle immediately after the ensuing kickoff, ending another frustrating night for the Red Bulls in Harrison.
“I think this was a difficult game from both directions – both halves, both sides of the ball,” Gerhard Struber said post-match. “This was difficult against an opponent on a high level like Columbus.”
“Even with how difficult this game was, I think we have three points in our hand if maybe we are a little more clever managing this game.”
Struber said that the Columbus equalizer, which began after debutante Ashley Fletcher attempted to dribble in the Columbus penalty area and fellow substitute Cristian Casseres missed a tackle, was a result of his team “not being on the same page” on whether to press or stay compact while protecting the lead.
“I think this is something that can happen when you have such hungry boys who always want to press…I think sometimes you also have to recognize when to sit back and stay compact.”
Despite the dejection of the late dropped points, the outlook is still positive for New York after the season’s first month. As the Major League Soccer season takes shape after Week 4, the Red Bulls sit 4th in the Eastern Conference table, three points behind pacesetters Philadelphia. Struber expressed optimism that his team will become stronger after the upcoming international break through both lessons learned and personnel added.
“We now have the international break, and it’s always very helpful to have a full week of training. Hopefully we take the lessons from this game and are able to integrate new players.”