After two crazy matches in the Pacific Northwest, the New York Red Bulls flew back across the country, and made a stop in Illinois to play Chicago Fire — a team that has been drawing a lot and is usually a tough side to beat at home although their stadium just hasn’t been the fortress it used to be.
The New York Red Bulls would get back Thierry Henry from his one match suspension and also made a change in goal. Bouna Coundoul took over for Greg Sutton, who had two hellish matches giving up a grand total of seven goals. But once again it looked like the Red Bulls had a solid first half and got a lead late.
Joel Lindpere would convert the first goal of the afternoon and the first off of Sean Johnson. In the 40th minute, a good ball from Henry found a streaking Lindpere, but Fire defender Yamith Cuesta tried to clear it and accidentally deflected the ball off Lindpere’s chest. A quick chip and roll into the open net as Johnson rushed off his line.
It looked like a good start in the second half for the Red Bulls, but once again there would be problems. Ever since the construction of Toyota Park, the Red Bulls haven’t won a match. Either late losses or late draws would finish every match at the Fire House. Marco Pappa has also been a thorn in the side for this club as he got a rebound shot and bent it into the net.
The 58th minute tally for the Fire wasn’t covered properly by Coundoul as the ball bounced on the line of the six yard box and Coundoul decided to drop to the ground early and the ball bounced over him for the equalizer. For the eighteenth time between these two clubs, they would end a match in another draw.
But if you ask the Red Bulls supporters, this was a frustrating match to see their side at the top end of the table not getting three points against one of the struggling sides in Major League Soccer. All of last season Coundoul was a strength in goal for the club and had a great year, but once he accepted an invite for a friendly with Senegal, Hans Backe was not happy and the only way Coundoul got his starting job back was an injury from Sutton in training.
After the home loss to Chivas-USA that wasn’t Coundoul’s entire fault, Backe still felt he had to have Greg Sutton in net and while he is taller and has a bigger wing span, you could see the last couple of games why he hasn’t been that reliable. If he doesn’t react to the shots, it’s in the net. He loses focus easily and sometimes has meltdowns.
Coundoul looked strong all game long, but that one mental decision on Marco Pappa’s shot did cost the clean sheet. Yet he bounced back up and made several good saves. That’s what the Red Bulls needed in their last two games from the keeper and Coundoul delivered. Now that the Gold Cup is over it will be great to see Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream back with the squad for their US Open Cup match against FC New York.