The New York Red Bulls have gone unbeaten in their last four matches after tying Toronto FC last night, 1-1.
That isn’t to say things are perfect in Harrison, considering only one of those games resulted in three points, with New York only earning three through the rest.
Two of those ties came against teams missing players due to the CONCACAF Gold Cup, including Toronto. Considering that I previously said New York should earn at least six points from this stretch, the resulting two in two games isn’t great (plus one game was rained out).
It isn’t awful, but both games saw RBNY hold a one-goal lead before letting in tying goals.
It’s a thought-forward Patryk Klimala shared during the post-game press conference last night.
“We were a better team, and we should win this game,” the former Celtic F.C. striker said. “This is the second game in a row where we have the lead, and we give up a goal. We’re not happy because that is now four points that we have lost in two games.”
However, that previous article is also titled “Near Full Strength Red Bulls Can Take Advantage of International Break,” and that hasn’t fully been the case.
Caden Clark was still out during the Philadelphia Union match, Andrew Gutman only just reappeared on the bench following a knee injury sidelining him for over a month, and Sean Nealis suffered a thigh injury against Orlando City SC, and, like Gutman, he only just appeared back on the bench in this last match. Neither Gutman nor Nealis made appearances either.
So the team isn’t “near” full strength just yet. Head coach Gerhard Struber told the media after the game how much can affect the game plan.
“So much of our game is teamwork,” he said. “If 1 or 2 players are not ready to go to their limit, then we cannot win over 90 minutes.”
However, the Red Bulls’ did have their top goal scorer return last night.
In his first match back with the team, Clark did not have a spectacular goal. He didn’t go the full 90 minutes against Toronto FC, nor did he make a real impact. In fact, the Minnesota native’s biggest contribution was giving up the ball to TFC before U.S. Men’s National Team legend Jozy Altidore helped set up the game-tying goal.
Coming on as a second-half substitute and coming back after an appendectomy sidelined him for four games gives Clark plenty of leeway for having an off night. But the rest of the team, especially the midfield, were hampered in the final 45.
Struber elected to have four midfielders with three playing on a backline against a Toronto team that’s been in flux this season. Even with the string of point-bearing results following Chris Armas’ sacking, this was still a team that could be scored on. Instead, players like Tom Barlow, Drew Yearwood, and Frankie Amaya were made to play behind Clark and Wiki Carmona as the defacto attacking mid.
Klimala and Fábio played well up top, but when nothing can reach them consistently, or the former muffs up a break-away attempt, it doesn’t lead to points on the board.
The game was Toronto’s first back home in Canada since 2019. It’s hard to say how much the 15% capacity BMO Field had on New York, but considering how alive Red Bull Arena felt when it finally re-opened, it definitely wasn’t zero.
RBNY remains on the road this Sunday in an Atlantic Cup clash against D.C. United. With United sitting one spot below in the standings, it will be an important match to create some distance between the two sides. Another tie would do little long-term for the health of the season, so Struber should hope impact players like Nealis and Gutman are ready to return fully. Plus, the hope Clark has shaken off the cobwebs, of course.
After that, the team will return home for a two-game homestand as the Gold Cup also begins to wrap up.
With more players returning home, New York should hope for a deep run by the USMNT if they want all the advantages they can get; they have two more games to reach that six-point threshold.
Featured Image: New York Red Bulls