The historically inconsistent New York Red Bulls came out Saturday night against the Houston Dynamo at Giants Stadium looking to maintain some uniformity and to win two consecutive games for the first time this season. However, the roller coaster that is the New York franchise was in full swing, staving off a man-down situation to tie the game 1-1.
One week after a resounding 4-1 victory against the San Jose Earthquake, head coach Juan Carlos Osorio kept the starting lineup almost exactly the same as the previous game, with the lone exception of John Conway starting in net in place of Danny Cepero, who was out with a hand injury. It would not stay that way for long.
Right fullback Carlos Johnson was subbed off the field in the 26th minute with what was said to be a sprained ankle. Then in the 35th minute, in a moment of inexplicable behavior, veteran midfielder Jorge Rojas was given a red card and ejected, after elbowing and attempting to kick Houston midfielder Brian Mullen.
The veteran mistakes continued to come. A ball came out of the air down to the normally dependable defender Mike Petke, but instead of heading the ball forward and clearing it out of danger, Petke headed the ball up and backwards, allowing Dynamo forward Ade Akinbiyi to get behind him and put the ball in the back of the net for what seemed to be the first goal of the night. The officials saved New York, however, and ruled that Akinbiyi had pushed Petke before shooting, resulting in no goal.
Even though they were shorthanded, the Red Bulls were more aggressive in the second half than they were when they had 11 players. Yet the Dynamo counter-attack was even more impressive.
In the 79th minute, substitute Dynamo midfielder Corey Ashe broke loose on the left flank and sent in a ball to the unmarked Chris Wondolowski, who put the cross home for the lead.
It seemed as if it would be another New York loss but the Red Bulls came back from the dead to play a spirited final five minutes. In the 88th minute, Dane Richards corralled in a stray corner kick and looped it back into the box where sub John Wolyniec chested the ball in traffic, dropped it to his feet, and turned and fired at the net, scoring the equalizer.
The Red Bulls had a chance in the 90th minute to score the game winner, but shots by Macoumba Kandji and Wolyniec were both blocked.
While some thought the win against San Jose would be a turning point for New York’s season, tonight’s game left the team with more unanswered questions.
Should one plaudit the team for coming from behind and down a man to tie the match? Or should fans be discouraged that the Red Bulls were forced to play short-handed again, hurting the chances of taking home three points?
Who plays in place of Jorge Rojas next week?
How many changes will the never-happy Osorio make to the lineup?
It will be another week before anyone knows the answer to those questions, when the Red Bulls take on the Chicago Fire next Sunday. For now, New York will take the point and try to continue an unbeaten streak.