Streaks in sports come and go, whether it’s hitting, scoring, consecutive games won or lost, they all eventually end. Heading into the international break the Red Bulls carried an impressive six game unbeaten streak, amid injuries and suspensions, into Toyota Park to face the Chicago Fire. With all but Philadelphia and Toronto picking up major points in the Eastern Conference, New York needed to do something they rarely do in Chicago: get a result. The Red Bulls streak not only ended but also crashed to the ground to start off a week of important games.
New York is a team well known for scoring early but they received a taste of their own medicine when Chicago scored not four minutes into the match. Hans Backe had come out with a weird formation, playing Heath Pearce in a defensive midfield role with Dax McCarty in an advanced midfield role and Mehdi Ballouchy on the bench. Pearce, playing in a new role, right off kickoff seemed hesitant on who to pick up and when to pressure. The Fire’s Sebastian Grazzini seemed surprised by the space he was afforded right above the 18 and chipped a ball across the box that Patrick Nyarko was able to head home. The remainder of the first half saw few chances for both sides as the midfield battled and Heath Pearce tried to get comfortable in his new role.
“We didn’t show up in the first 20 minutes” coach Hans Backe said after the match. He also told NBC Sports Kyle Martino at halftime that the backline had to play the ball up more to start the attack and that they were passing between themselves too much.
The second half started off as many Red Bull fans on twitter were predicting, Pearce at left back, McCarty into the holding mid role, Ballouchy on to attack, and Miller to the bench. New York would equalize ten minutes into the second half off a McCarty header from a corker kick. It looked as if Holgersson got a boot to the ball but as of now, McCarty has his second goal of the season. New York’s defensive struggles in this game would continue as the game went on. Dominic Oduro was unlikely to add to his season tally when a beautiful through ball had him one-on-one with Meara. Meara got just enough of the ball to slow its movement and an onrushing Wilman Conde cleared the ball off the goal line, a la Tim Ream against Lando Donovan, denying the Fire from taking a 2-1 lead, or did it? Replays clearly show Oduro rightfully should have had a goal as the ball was well over the line before Conde got a boot to it. The assistant ref was nowhere in position to make the call and Conde slid with his back in position to block the refs view. Chicago would find redemption, as Gonzalo Segares would score mere minutes later. Chris Rolfe would add a third goal to see New York leave Toyota Park with their heads hung low.
“There are only two players that I’m happy with, and that’s Dane and Ryan Meara. Otherwise I could’ve subbed every player, the other nine guys,’’ Backe told reporters on Monday. “We looked flat. I have no answer why. The preparation has been good, everything worked well, so it was definitely very disappointing.’’
The Red Bulls have a quick turnaround and are already in Vancouver, getting ready to play the Whitecaps on Wednesday. Without Henry, Marquez, and Mehdi Ballouchy, Backe is limited in what he can field.
(image courtesy of Getty Images)