By MIKE NASTRI
The New York Red Bulls went into their Saturday night clash with the Vancouver Whitecaps desperate for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Instead of three points against the worst team in MLS, the Red Bulls managed only to muster another draw in a season that grows more disappointing by the week.
Juan Agudelo kept the match from being even more disappointing for the Red Bulls, coming on as a scond-half substitute with New York down a goal and a man. The U.S. national team striker burst past John Thorrington and volleyed home a Rafa Marquez cross for a vital equalizer in an eventual 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena.
The draw was the Red Bulls' 15th of the season, tying Chicago for the MLS record for draws. The dropped points, coupled with D.C. United's win against Chivas USA, dropped the Red Bulls out of playoff position for the first time all season.
Vancouver jumped out to an early lead when midfielder Davide Chiumiento delivered a beautiful volley goal after collecting a pass from Camilo Sanvezzo, touching the ball into the air before turning and hitting a perfect side volley past Bouna Coundoul.
The Red Bulls found themselves in a heap of trouble heading into halftime as Jan Gunnar Solli was shown a red card in first half stoppage time. Solli took down Camilo Sanvezzo on a through ball from DP Eric Hassli, drawing a straight red card from referee Terry Vaughn.
Agudelo found the equalzer for New York, but the Red Bulls couldn't overcome their terrible first half and wound up settling for yet another draw.
After a memorable pre-game ceremony honoring the fallen victims of September 11th, it was the expansion Whitecaps that came out with the urgency of a team vying for a playoff spot. The Red Bulls on the otherhand had the look of the last place team.
The Red Bulls missed a huge opportunity to gain three points before a very tough finish to the season. Six of the team's eight remaining games are with playoff teams, while another game is against Portland who is within a point of the Red Bull's tenth and final postseason spot. The final stretch continues for New York in Texas on Saturday against the dangerous FC Dallas.