In Drawing With Galaxy, Red Bulls Suffer Major Defeat

USA Today

Under nearly any other circumstance, playing to a 2-2 draw when traveling from one coast to the other, after playing a physical match mid-week, would be seen as a major accomplishment. However, after last night’s 2-2 tie with the LA Galaxy, the New York Red Bulls return home a team in crisis.

By the time the 47th minute came around, New York coach Jesse Marsch had used up his allotment of three substitutes due to injuries, all of which were suffered by key members of the squad. Defenders Damien Perrinelle and Connor Lade were both removed in the first half due to leg injuries. In the first minute of the second-half, Bradley Wright-Phillips, the Red Bulls’ all-time leading scorer, had to come out with a right knee contusion.

Perrinelle’s injury is made all the more concerning as he is just coming off a ruptured ACL suffered in last year’s playoffs. Fortunately, it appears to be his left ankle this time. For Lade, the injury comes at an unfortunate time considering he’s having somewhat of a career renaissance. He apparently suffered an undisclosed right knee injury. All three players will receive further evaluation in New York.

In addition to the three players, the Red Bulls also lost another lead. After going up 2-0 on goals from Gonzalo Veron (who replaced Wright-Phillips) and Sean Davis (who is replacing captain Dax McCarty), suffered their sixth blown lead in their last seven MLS matches.

Their inability to close out games has been a trend throughout the season, but has yet to be addressed effectively. While much of the blame goes on the players themselves, coach Marsch deserves some responsibility too. For whatever reason, be it conditioning, tactics, preparation, or a myriad of other reasons, the coach needs to correct the pattern. The lost points after holding leads has  the Red Bulls dearly in an extraordinarily tight Eastern Conference playoff race, and may come back to haunt them as the regular season winds down.

For Marsch’s part, despite their season-long injury crisis, and the aforementioned struggles late in matches, the Red Bulls find themselves in third place in the conference, only four points behind New York City F.C. for the lead. Much of his team’s successes over his year-and-a-half as manager have been predicated on his ability to inspire his players to perform at peak levels. He is also ardently defensive of them in public, and wears his emotions on his sleeve.

During Sunday’s draw, the Red Bulls were aggrieved at numerous decisions by referee Hilario Grajeda, and no one showed their passion more than Marsch. Late in the second half, Grajeda declined to give the Red Bulls two separate penalty kicks, both of which appeared to warrant them.

Twice, Los Angeles goalkeeper Brian Rowe took down two Red Bulls in the penalty box without touching the ball first. With New York up 2-1, only minutes after LA scored, Alex Muyl chased after a ball in the box before Rowe took his legs out.

Only minutes later, and after LA had tied the match, Veron suffered a similar fate when Rowe made contact with his legs, sending the Argentinian down. Once again, Grajeda left the whistle in his pocket.

The pair of missed calls sent Marsch, and the rest of the bench into a frenzy. Marsch jumped around in a frenzy and screamed demonstrably towards the fourth official on the sideline. LA’s Jeff Larentowicz also earned the ire of the coach for a high-boot kick to Kemar Lawrence, who was making his MLS return from injury. Eventually, Marsch was shown a red card and was dismissed from the match.

Had they been able to close out the match despite traveling 3,000 miles and losing three players to injury, on top of missing their captain, the Red Bulls would have returned home bruised and battered, but with a sense of accomplishment and soaring confidence. Instead, they return home a team bruised, battered, and facing numerous difficult questions.

After an exhausting match like that, and with the litany of injuries they’ve suffered recently, it’s easy to see why the Red Bulls and their fans may be concerned about their ability to continue competing at the highest level.

The Red Bulls return home on Saturday to face the Montreal Impact at 7pm.