On a cold afternoon in Columbus, Ohio the New York Red Bulls traveled to take on the Crew to try to earn any points possible and build on their season opening victory against the Seattle Sounders. But when you are missing five players on international duty and two starters through injury, how is this feat possible? How will you find a way to not just get a goal, but to get a positive result in any way possible?
You sign a rookie keeper who was on your pre-season squad in Alex Horwath, testing your depth and putting certain players out of position like Roy Miller. Miller is normally a left fullback, but when teamed up in the center with veteran Carlos Mendes, he was a workhorse. That’s just what the undermanned Red Bulls did as they stole a crucial point on the road at Crew Stadium.
Horwath answered the call a couple of times in this match. But it was Emmanuel Ekpo who had a great chance to score for Columbus when he received a good ball in the 39th minute. Even though the shot wasn’t taken well, Horwath was proactive and made the one handed diving save. Many other chances were taken by the Crew and either it was an easy grab for Horwath, or the ball just barely missed the goal by a hair. But what the Red Bulls did was frustrate the Crew for the full ninety minutes as they steal an important point. And for the second consecutive match, they delivered a clean sheet against their opposition.
“It was a massive result,” said Red Bulls coach Hans Backe. “To have a second clean sheet with the way we defended… I’m really, really impressed and proud to see these players show this kind of performance.”
Give Will Hesmer plenty of credit as well for his clean sheet performance. There were many times that the Red Bulls could have stolen the full three points by sneaking one in, but Hesmer made several strong saves and parried away a dangerous Joel Lindpere shot in second half stoppage time that could have been a match winner. But while Hesmer shined for the Crew, the rest of the side had some moments.
But for the New York Red Bulls who lost Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream for the USA friendly against Argentina, lost Rafa Marquez to Mexico, lost Dane Richards to Jamaica, lost Bouna Coundoul to Senegal; including injuries to Thierry Henry (left leg muscle strain) and Greg Sutton (concussion), this was a gutsy, gritty performance by an under-manned Red Bulls side that stole a point.
Once these international matches are done this coming Tuesday, it will be a full squad for selection by Hans Backe and hopefully that means there won’t be an interference until this coming June when the 2011 Gold Cup starts. There will be relief now but in two months Hans Backe could lose up to five players until the middle of June for those road matches in league play.