With 10 games remaining in the 2011 Major League Soccer season, there is no evidence that the New York Red Bulls should be considered a serious contender for the 2011 MLS Cup.
A week after the Red Bulls flew to England to win the Emirates Cup, a tournament as meaningless as last year's Walt Disney Pro Soccer Classic, the team played their first MLS match since July 23, 2011 when they tied FC Dallas 2-2 at Red Bull Arena.
Competing Saturday night against Real Salt Lake on the road at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Red Bulls were simply embarrassed by the home team in a 3-0 loss. In a battle of Eastern and Western Conference foes, RSL demonstrated on Saturday night why they're the stingiest team in MLS.
With their superb defense, Real Salt Lake has only allowed 16 goals all season. Desperately needing to end a two-game losing streak, Real Salt Lake dissected the Red Bulls defense as they produced goals from a set piece, a strike and a penalty kick.
Nat Borchers opened the goal register for RSL when he accepted a corner kick from Kyle Beckerman with his head to slam the soccer ball past Red Bulls goalkeeper Frank Rost for a RSL 1-0 lead in the 13th minute of the first half.
While the Red Bulls 18-year-old Juan Agudelo may play for the USMNT and appear in the latest Adidas commercial, it was his 17-year old counterpart Luis Gil who beautifully scored his first MLS goal off a 25-yard blast to give RSL a 2-0 advantage at the half.
In the second half, the Red Bulls were unable to produce a goal and whenever they threatened RSL's defense was able to disrupt their flow. In a match where it appeared the Red Bulls were desperate to tie, head coach Hans Backe had done something that he hadn't done since May 28th against the Vancouver Whitecaps: he used all three of the team's substitutions.
Bouna Coundoul came in for Frank Rost who came out with a right quadriceps strain. While the move seemed sensible, it wasn't enough to prevent RSL from scoring their third and final goal of the evening. Seconds after Red Bull Roy Miller was called for a hand ball, Alvaro Saborio successfully converted the PK in the 76th minute to put the game out reach with a 3-0 lead.
With the loss, the New York Red Bulls (6-6-12) are now tied with Sporting Kansas City for third place in the Eastern Conference. By trailing the Columbus Crew and Philadelphia Union, the Red Bulls need a strong push in their final 10 games of the season in order to reach the postseason.
If you take away the team's lack of goal production, their vulnerability to set pieces and coaching decisions, it appears the team is getting kicked in the butt by karma. With the latest injury to Luke Rodgers and apparently Frank Rost, the injuries continue to mount up.
In addition to placing more emphasis in the Emirates Cup over the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the team hasn't won a MLS match. Ironically, the individual who seems to be benefiting the most with good karma is Dwayne De Rosario.
Since being traded to D.C. United for Dax McCarty, DeRo is producing goals while helping D.C. United with their recent surge. If the Red Bulls aren't careful, it maybe their bitter rivals passing them for a playoff spot.
Other MLS Results from Saturday
D.C. United (6-6-8) tied Toronto FC 3-3 (3-11-10).
Philadelphia Union (8-5-8) tied the Houston Dynamo (6-7-9) 1-1.
Sporting Kansas City (7-6-9) lost to the Seattle Sounders (10-5-8) 2-1.
Los Angeles Galaxy (13-3-9) rallied to defeat FC Dallas (12-6-6) 3-1.
Cesar Diaz covers Soccer for LatinoSports.com. He also writes for 5 Points Press & USSoccerPlayers.com ; your source for American Soccer news brought to you by members of the U.S. National Team. Easily accessible, you may reach Cesar at firstname.lastname@example.org and at Twitter at @CoveringSoccer.