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Red Bulls 3-3 Chicago: late heroics but home win still out of reach

Late Klimala goal salvages a draw but sloppy defending leaves New York winless at home for another week

MLS: Chicago Fire at New York Red Bulls
Chicago’s Chris Mueller and New York’s Tom Edwards battle in the first half of Wednesday’s physical 3-3 draw
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It was a thrilling night in Harrison, but yet another one that the New York Red Bulls came out of without three points.

A late Patryk Klimala goal was enough to salvage a 3-3 draw on Wednesday night against Chicago Fire, but only after a chaotic second half forced New York to chase a game in which they were challenged more than usual by an away side. The draw leaves New York just one point off Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia but tied with four other teams heading into the summer.

On a pleasant spring evening in Harrison, Gerhard Struber rotated his starting eleven in the midst of a dense May schedule. Patryk Klimala and emerging star Luquinhas started on bench while left back John Tolkin missed his first match of 2022 in what Gerhard Struber said postgame were covid protocols. But his now-standard 3-5-2 formation created problems for last place Chicago early even with second-string personnel before the game descended into chaos.

The first half was a back and forth affair that New York dominated in the early moments before Chicago found more of a foothold late. The first minute saw a yellow card handed out to Chicago defender Carlos Teran for a hack on Cristian Cásseres on the edge of the box, with the resulting free kick pinballing in front of Chicago goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina without a Red Bull getting a clean shot off.

New York would create intermittent danger before Omir Fernandez drew a penalty in the 19th minute, getting hauled down after being fed onto goal by a Cásseres through ball. Lewis Morgan, returning from his own covid diagnosis, would slot the spot kick into the right corner past Slonina to give New York a 1-0 lead.

But soon after Chicago would creep into the game with more focused possession and breakouts. Finally in the 38th minute, new Fire signing Chris Mueller earned an equalizer for Chicago. After collecting the ball in the box, the former Orlando and Hibernian man maneuvered between three New York defenders before roofing the ball past Carlos Coronel to draw even just ahead of the halftime whistle.

The second half would descend into chaos as constant fouls and eventually constant goals left veteran referee Ted Unkel in the spotlight for much of proceedings. After a Jhon Duran drive in the second minute of the half was tipped wide by Coronel, a series of Chicago corners eventually hit paydirt. On a corner from the left side, Duran flicked the service towards the back post where Wyatt Omsberg headed in past a helpless Coronel to give Chicago a well-deserved lead.

But the action didn’t relent, and New York equalized just minutes later through comeback kid Cameron Harper, who would get his first senior professional goal fresh off two straight games with assists. After receiving the ball on the left side of the box after a shuffling counter attack, Harper launched what at first appeared to be a harmless shot at Chicago’s teenage wunderkind keeper Gaga Slonina. But Slonina’s attempt to catch the direct shot saw the ball fumbled over his head and into the back of the net to the roars of the RBA crowd.

More choppy play would ensue for the remainder of the half — Gerhard Struber said postgame that the constant whistles and restarts left his team struggling to maintain their pressing energy. Struber also lamented the lack of VAR review on a play with ten minutes remaining when Slonina bodychecked Klimala as he entered the box away from the ball. But the game’s technical rhythm would increase and lead to one more call-and-response of goals in the game’s final moments..

First was a third goal for Chicago that appeared (for around a minute, at least) to be a game winner. A loose touch from the otherwise productive Frankie Amaya in his own box was pounced on by Chicago, with the league’s highest-paid player Xherdan Shaqiri collecting the ball and blasting past Coronel from top of the box, capping a night in which the Albanian-Swiss superstar geniunely inspired his side’s performance.

But before post-mortems could be finalized, New York snatched another draw from the jaws of defeat. The active Omir Fernandez carried the ball down the left side just seconds after Shaqiri’s goal, feeding a trailing Patryk Klimala to slot past Slonina for the match’s final goal for a 3-3 draw.

Despite the late heroics, the draw at home was far more of a disappointment than the joyous scenes after the away weekend draw at Philadelphia.

“It’s a more bitter feeling (than the Philadelphia game) even though it was the same result,” said goalscorer Cameron Harper post-match. His manager Gerhard Struber was more blunt.

“We expected a clear win tonight and this is a very disappointing feeling,” said the Austrian manager.

“3-3 at home against a team like Chicago is not our standard. From a data side (Struber said his analysts stated New York won the expected goals battle by 2 to 1) we have to win this game.”

“I must say I think late in the game there was a clear penalty and I don’t know why this isn’t reviewed. But ultimately we were not synchronized in transition moments against the ball and on set pieces and this is where we must improve.”

Cameron Harper stated that despite he and his teammates downtrodden mood after Wednesday’s match, they were still looking forward with confidence.

“We have Miami, the cup game, and DC over the next week and these are big games ahead of the international break.”

“We have to look forward.”