One word can describe the Red Bulls' mood after their loss to the Whitecaps at Red Bull Arena Saturday night: Anger.
Anger at letting numerous chances in the first half go by the wayside. Anger at letting Vancouver come back to win after thoroughly dominating long stretches of the match. And anger in allowing their seven-match unbeaten run to come to an end.
Despite owning the possession statistics – over 65 percent for the duration of the match – and creating a majority of the better scoring chances, New York was unable to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise-high eight matches after letting a second-half lead slip away and losing a 2-1 decision to the Whitecaps. The team heads into its three-week midseason frustrated.
“I'm shocked, I can't believe it,” Red Bulls midfielder Juninho said through a translator after the match. “I can't believe we lost that game. We completely dominated the first half; we managed to go up 1-0 early in the second half and, in a matter of 3-4 minutes, we lost the game. It's frustrating to lose games this way.”
After seizing a 1-0 lead on Greg Klazura's goal in the 51st minute, the Red Bulls let what seemed to be a certain three points get away. Vancouver would find a way to get back on level terms after calamitous defending in the Red Bulls' penalty box, as Eric Alexander's attempted clearing header fell into the path of the Whitecaps' Jordan Harvey, who smashed a left-footed volley past Luis Robles to square the match at 1-1. It would only get worse for the Red Bulls after Jamison Olave got sent off for a second yellow card in the 75th minute because of a rash foul on Whitecaps striker Kenny Miller. Miller would deliver the final crushing blow, scoring the game-winning headed goal in the 83rd minute.
“I thought we controlled the game completely until the red card,” head coach Mike Petke told MSG's Tina Cervasio in his postgame interview. “It's a terrible feeling right now. [Saturday], it just wasn't our night.”
Thierry Henry gave a frank assessment of his team's performance, saying the Red Bulls didn't even deserve to win the match even if it stayed 11 vs. 11. The captain believed the effort wasn't good enough and the team needs to step it up when they come back from their break.
“We got to work hard and play way better than that to win a game,” Henry said. “Vancouver deserved to win full stop … give them credit, they played well, they had a plan, they stuck to their plan and they scored when they needed to score.”
It looked as if the Red Bulls had nothing to fear from, what seemed to be, an anemic Whitecaps attack in the first half. Robles had little to do in goal and the center-back combination of Olave and Markus Holgersson had Miller totally contained.
But Alexander's gaffe cost the Red Bulls on the equalizer and Kosuke Komura failed to pick up Miller's run into the box. The Japanese defender was caught looking at the ball and the Red Bulls were handed their first loss since April 17 because of it. His coach – and former defender – was not impressed with the effort.
“As a former defender myself, I know you never stare at the ball,” Petke said in his post-match press conference. “The right play is to know where the player is behind you, and to use your body, put your body in front of the player and the ball, so there’s no way for him to get it [unless he] fouls you.”
For the man that had the best view of both goals – Red Bulls goalie Robles – there was a lack of cohesion defensively that caused the problems and allowed Vancouver to take advantage.
“I know that there was confusion on the first [goal],” he said. “The other [goal] was because Kenny Miller is a proven goal scorer. Still, both of them were horrible. It’s kind of a bitter taste going into the break … [Saturday] wasn’t good enough.”
The Red Bulls next game is not until June 12 – a US Open Cup clash against the New England Revolution at Harvard University – and their next league match isn’t until June 23 in Philadelphia against the Union.