RBNY finish first half of season with best mark in club history
Red Bulls midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli scored his second goal of season. File Photo: Vera / DailyHarrison.com
The New York Red Bulls faced a Toronto FC club Saturday night that even its top scorer, striker Danny Koevermans called “the worst team on the planet.”
One would figure that the Red Bulls would simply have an easy time facing lowly Toronto. Although RBNY was facing the last-place club at BMO Field, their humble confines north of the border.
When the Red Bulls scored in the fourth minute of the match on a goal by Jan Gunnar Solli, his second goal in as many games, it looked as if the walkover was about to begin.
However, Toronto FC wasn’t going to go down easily, tying the game two minutes after Solli’s goal.
And the match remained that way for the rest of the evening, as the two teams battled to a 1-1 draw.
With the tie, the Red Bulls improved to 9-4-4 overall, but dropped out of the first place tie in the MLS Eastern Conference standings after D.C. United defeated Montreal, 3-0, on Saturday. D.C. United holds a two-point lead on the Red Bulls, 34 to 32. Toronto FC remains in last place in the standings with a 2-10-3 record.
But the tie gave the Red Bulls their highest point total (32) that they’ve ever had at the halfway mark of a season.
Solli, playing midfield again, was the team’s best player. He took advantage of a brilliant long cross from Brandon Barklage and got off a right-footed shot to the left corner of the goal that Toronto goalkeeper Milos Kocic never had a chance to stop. Dane Richards was also awarded an assist on the play.
“It was a great cross from Brandon,” Solli said. “I was just trying to get to the box and it was just a good timed run. It’s a little different playing midfield and it’s a little awkward, but I’m just trying to stretch the plays there.”
Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe believes that Solli is a better player in the midfield rather than defender.
“I think it’s his best position, because he can run all day,” Backe said. “I think he feels better in that position.”
After playing 41 career games in the MLS without a goal, Solli has now scored a goal in each of the last two games.
But the lead was very short lived. On the ensuing possession, Toronto FC received a corner kick that Torsten Frings took. Frings perfectly placed the corner directly to the head of Koevermans, who pushed it high past Red Bulls goalie Ryan Meara for the game-tying goal in the sixth minute. It was Koevermans’ eighth goal of the season.
“It’s a little disappointing that we conceded a goal right after we scored one,” Solli said.
“After we scored, we didn’t control the lead,” Backe said. “That was sloppy defending. Koevermans is difficult to defend, but we can’t let him get a chance like that. We were giving up too many set pieces, corner kicks and free kicks.”
The Red Bulls had some good chances to take the lead in the first half, both coming off the foot of captain Thierry Henry. In the 29th minute, Henry had a direct free kick that sailed high of the goal. In the 33rd minute, Henry had a free kick blocked and Dax McCarty just missed the left-footed rebound attempt, going high and wide right.
Toronto FC had a chance in the 45th minute, when Koevermans’ left-footed shot missed wide right.
In the 63rd minute, Solli had a left-footed shot that went wide right.
In the 77th minute, the biggest moment of controversy took place, as Logan Emory seemed to pull Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere down in the penalty box after Lindpere received a perfect lead pass from Henry. As Lindpere went down, he collided hard with Kocic, getting hit hard in the head. Lindpere left the field with a raised knot on his forehead, but he had nothing to show for his efforts, as referee Ricardo Salazar refused to make a call. It should have been a penalty kick awarded to Lindpere, but no call was made.
In the 81st minute, Koevermans had a header that Meara saved. Stephen Keel made two outstanding defensive plays in the final five minutes to preserve the tie for the Red Bulls.
“We controlled the game in the second half,” Solli said. “I wish we were a little sharper after we scored the goal and we would have had a win here.”
“We were more composed in the second half,” Backe said.
The Red Bulls suffered a potentially huge setback, when defender Heath Pearce went down with what appeared to be a hamstring injury in stoppage time. The team was already playing without defenders Markus Holgersson and Rafa Marquez due to leg injuries.
As it turned out, the Red Bulls had only one shot on goal all game _ and that was the one that Solli put into the net.
The Red Bulls return to action next Sunday, when they travel to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Revolution at 7 p.m.