Caden Clark voices displeasure with referee Lukasz Szpala, a common theme during the New York Red Bulls’ 2022 home opener loss against Minnesota United FC on March 13, 2022 (Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

The New York Red Bulls’ home opener didn’t go exactly to plan. Minnesota United FC broke RBNY’s two-game win streak to start 2022 with a 1-0 in Harrison on Sunday night. A saved penalty kick and a contentious no-call on a handball stung even more as missed chances piled up.

Talking to the media postgame, head coach Gerhard Struber thought it was “crazy” that his team left the field without a point. His group dominated offensively and outshot Minnesota 19 to 5 (with shots on goal being 8 to 2). While he knows the team has to finish it’s own chances, Struber also admitted that in soccer it sometimes comes down to aspects players don’t control.

“We cannot lose chances on this level, every time,” he explained. “But today, also, you need a little bit of luck and today we miss a little bit of luck in these moments. And the other side that is not in our hands is the decision from the referees.”

When the match kicked off under a flurry of snow, it seemed like those decisions were going in New York’s favor. Ten minutes in, Omir Fernandez played into the Loons’ area where defender Hassani Dotson handled the bouncing ball. Following a VAR check, a penalty kick was awarded and Patryk Klimala stepped up to the spot. However, he did little to hide where his shot was going and the low strike was saved easily by Dayne St Clair.

That wasn’t even New York’s best chance of the night. However as the game progressed it stuck out more as a turning point. Struber, however, disagreed saying his team did exceptionally well moving past the missed chance and continuing to fight.

As he’s stated was the plan this season, Struber shifted the formation again from last game. Looking more like the setup used in San Jose two weeks ago the Bulls’ came out with five defenders and a lone Klimala up top. At times, the 5-4-1 formation almost looked like a 3-4-3 with Aaron Long, Sean Nealis, and Tom Edwards keeping especially back.

Midfielders Lewis Morgan and Omir Fernandez played under Klimala, with the trio having multiple stretches of offensive dominance with nothing to show for it.

The shift into a 4-4-2, more similar to what fans saw against Toronto last week, did not come until after New York trailed 1-0 midway through the second half. Tom Barlow didn’t come on until the 68th minute. Last week’s hat-trick hero Morgan was nearly nullified the entire game. Instead, the offense flowed through Klimala and from Drew Yearwood’s long range shots.

Overall, through most of the game Minnesota only really did one thing better than New York. St Clair, who was filling in for starter Ryan Miller, had the game of his life and earned the clean sheet with eight saves. He looks on the way to be named player of the week by the North American Soccer Reporters and possibly even Major League Soccer. Even still, the 24-year-old with a lone Canadian National Team cap wasn’t perfect. Many of his goal kicks did not travel far and his team did not play back to him often.

On the other side Carlos Cornel only faced two shots through 90 minutes and had a .500 save percentage. Despite the game ending with New York trailing in total percentage of possession (48.3%) it never felt like that.

In the end one of those times was the most important. A 51st minute corner kick found Dotson on the opposite side. Almost as a make-up for his handball before, the defender crossed into Luis Amarilla at the back post who volleyed in the game-winner.

Trailing for the first time this season, New York did respond well. The best chance to equalize came in the 79th minute when Morgan made a run up the right side. He passed up to Klimala, whose cross into the box was an inch ahead of a charging Barlow and went past untouched. It mirrored the same type of offensive push the team has had the last two weeks while having leads.

The final nail came as Brazilian center-midfielder Luquinhas made his debut one minute later. He aided the offensive push and was subject to a late-game no call on an alleged trip near the edge of the box came just before the final whistle. To Struber, it’s the latest example where he and his team were left baffled on official calls.

Despite the result, the late charge for a point against Minnesota did leave a good impression on the Austrian.

“This shows me that the full group is ready to win games and they left everything on the field. You always need a little bit of luck… we missed that today. And you also need referees on the right level.

“But I think my boys, they are absolutely on the right way especially our team dynamic. Our spirit. Our togetherness. I feel a little bit sorry for my boys today. We invest so much intensity… and also some good ideas to break the lines, to come in transition moments. In the end it’s painful but we have to work with that.”

Overall, the announced crowd of 14,848 can take away positives from this game. The South Ward supporter section was denser than it had been at any point last season. The parade of Viking Army and Empire SC supporters prior to the game was loud and large. The atmosphere was ecstatic and excited to see this team play.

The Red Bulls will return to Harrison and those fans this Sunday afternoon for Week 4. They’ll host current Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew in what is usually one of the hardest games of the season. The last five games between the two sides are evenly split with two wins each and a draw.

Comments are closed.

Check Also

PREVIEW: Red Bulls Look to Repeat 2023 Success Against NYCFC

Both the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC have a lot to prove this Saturday. The fi…