Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIPhotos.com
By RYAN TOLMICH
HARRISON, N.J.– After last week’s 4-1 thrashing at the hands of the Vancouver Whitecaps, the New York Red Bulls needed a spark to ignite the defense of their 2013 Supporters Shield. They started their match on Saturday well enough, but couldn’t sustain that energy for the rest of the match, allowing the visiting Colorado Rapids to ride a questionable penalty kick call to a hard-earned road point.
A 57th-minute goal off the head of Thierry Henry gave the Red Bulls life, but it wouldn’t be enough get them past the Colorado Rapids, whose 72nd-minute goal from Vicente Sanchez was enough to earn a 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena.
Replacement referee Alan Kelly drew the ire of the home crowd when he pointed to the penalty spot after Colorado’s Marvin Chavez backed into Red Bulls defender Jamison Olave and collapsed in a heap. Replays showed Olave standing with his arms up as Chavez backed into him, but the penalty still stood, and Sanchez converted it with a perfect low kick to the right corner.
The Red Bulls were bound to come out with an extra bit of emotion for their home opener, as the club unleashed a pyrotechnic display to go with the unveiling of a banner celebrating last season’s Supporters Shield.
That pre-game spectacle appeared to energize the home team responded from the start and opened the contest with an intensity unseen in their previous effort. However, it was the Rapids who created the better scoring chances in the opening half, forcing Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles into five first half saves, including two in the 18th minute.
Henry’s header gave the hosts the lead early in the second half when he was left unmarked on the back post. Lloyd Sam’s cross found it’s way across the Rapids box, giving Henry one of the easier finishes of his illustrious career.
“I was thinking Tim Cahill would be coming in at any time,” said Sam. “But Thierry gets a few with his head every now and then and I was happy he put that in.
The Rapids got themselves right back into it in the 72nd minute when Sanchez fired past a diving Robles from the spot. Red Bulls centerback Jameson Olave was called for the penalty after coming over the back of Sanchez.
“From my vantage point, I feel like the defender has his right to stand his ground,” said Robles, “but I’m guessing my angle wasn’t the best angle since it’s in the back of Olave.”
“There wasn’t really much danger of us conceding from where he was on the field,” added Sam. “He had his back to the goal. It kind of knocked us”
The Red Bulls had chances to grab all three points in stoppage time when an Henry free kick found the head of Peguy Luyindula, but Luyindula’s header went across the face of goal only to be cleared by the Rapids’ defense. Shortly after, Rapids keeper John Berner made the save of the night on an Henry header that was headed for the lower corner.
After the game, Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke was less than happy with the officiating.
“Listen, it’s the game,” said Petke. “What am I going to say about the penalty kick? Maybe if the guy was Olave’s size maybe he wouldn’t have gone down like that. I don’t know.
“The referee made a decision. It’s unfortunate for us, fortunate for Colorado, and you move on.”
Despite the rocky start to the season, Henry insisted that it wasn’t time to push the panic button.
“There’s no panic,” said Henry. “We have to go back to the field next week and do better because it wasn’t, obviously, enough to win the game today. But yeah, we were in this situation last year, and we wanted to do better. We obviously didn’t. It’s going to be a tough game against Chicago next week and we have to do better.”
“Overall, at home, a point,” added Petke. “I’d much rather three. But it’s the second game of the season. There’s 32 left.”
With the draw, the Red Bulls fall to 0-1-1, while the Rapids earn a point in the first game of their 2014 season.
Here are the match highlights: