New York Red Bulls defender Andrés Reyes (4) falls over Colorado Rapids forward Gyasi Zardes (29) during the first half of the Major League Soccer game between the New York Red Bulls and the Colorado Rapids on August 2, 2022 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Red Bulls’ multiple two goal leads on Saturday night weren’t enough to hold off The Colorado Rapids. The third worst team in the league’s western conference scored five goals against New York. Another second half collapse hands the team another loss, 5-4. Struber has dropped three games in six days including Saturday’s friendly versus FC Barcelona.

The team remains in the upper half of the Eastern Conference standings. However any chance of Supporter’s Shield glory has certainly evaporated. Now, the team looks to correct itself and prepare for any potential playoff run. Hopefully as a higher seed.

“I think we are very disappointed today,” head coach Gerhard Struber said to the media in his opening postgame statement. “High frustration in our brain, and what we expect today, just what we executed was not on this level of what we can do normal. I think we were not sharp enough after the lead to score again (to) bring the game in a clear direction.

“I feel very sad for many fans, they are coming here and pay a lot for the ticket. And yeah, we create a game like that; that this was not our standard, and I feel sorry.”

The high game load will undoubtedly be attributed to Tuesday’s result. However three goals allowed in the final thirteen minutes of regulation isn’t something that can be easily explained away. 34-year-old soccer journeyman Collen Warner tied the game at 3-3 in the 77th minute before Colorado winger Michael Barrios gave the visitor’s the lead three minutes later. After the initial dagger goal was called back for offside in the 84th, the knife finally came in the 89th when substitute Dantouma Toure slotted a shot into the left side of Carlos Coronel’s net to make it 5-4.

The fact New York scored four goals in a game this season is astounding enough. The fact still lost, against Colorado, is just unbelievable.

Starting off, defender Andrés Reyes made his MLS return after dealing with injury for most of the season. After spending some time in USL with the reserve team the Columbian made himself at home on the right side. In a rare move, Struber elected to make it officially a three man back-line. John Tolkin and Dylan Nealis were moved up higher along the wings, serving as in-between men between the defense and midfield.

Right away Reyes’ impact was felt. The physicality he brought to the pitch was evident right away and he battled Gyasi Zardes and Bryan Acosta for most of the match. But with Red Bull goals coming in the first ten minutes fans would be forgiven for not thinking this would matter.

Dru Yearwood’s redirect shot in the sixth minute and Aaron Long’s header off a free kick in the 9th made it 2-0 to New York before people had sat down. Colorado keeper William Yarbrough was visibly annoyed at his teammates and dysfunction felt evident. But in the 21st minute the visitors caught a break. An errant ball by Reyes was intercepted by the Rapids who fed Diego Rubio on the left side. A quick goal cut the lead in half.

Despite not getting on Tuesday’s less than exclusive goal sheet, one of New York’s biggest standouts was defender John Tolkin. The duel threat was itching to get a ball past Yarbrough all night. In the first half alone the New Jersey native had three attempts including a sensational curving shot that was saved for a corner. Each attempt his reaction told a more frustrated story, culminating with a full on hand on head grab during first half stoppage time.

On the surface it might seem odd that a defender fighting for a goal stood out the most. Especially on a night where four different New York players found the back of the net. Perhaps that’s helped by the fact that two of the Bulls’ goals came from penalty kicks.

Lewis Morgan’s PK in the first half came after a VAR review that wasn’t super clear. When referee Drew Fischer awarded the kick it came after a seemingly open and shut infraction. Defender Lalas Abubakar took down Luquinhas from behind just inside the box. He looked as though he was the last man a clear scoring opportunity had been halted. As such, Abubakar was shown a red card. But after a few minutes the call was changed to a yellow card.

Morgan put the shot away but the process around it took away from the moment. Still New York led 3-1 at the time.

The next penalty kick was less impactful for the complete opposite reason. Tom Barlow’s score in second half stoppage time might have made it 5-4. But the total collapse of the team in the half made any offensive gains feel useless. Barlow seemingly tied the game deep in stoppage, essentially in the 100th minute, the offside flag called the goal back. Even if this goal counted, New York truly didn’t deserve any points on the night.

Speaking of Barlow, his presence on the field continues to be a contentious one in the fan base. Seemingly, and especially in the last week of games, Barlow coming on as a second half substitute hasn’t boded well for team performance. Consistently the Red Bulls will replace either a critical number 9 midfielder or a striker who is playing well, Patryk Klimala in tonight’s case, with Barlow. After that the offense slowly starts to stall. The team begins to play back far more and eventually cedes control of the game entirely.

When asked if there was a correlation between these events Struber was quick to defend his player. Instead the third (ish) season RBNY coach focused on the bloated schedule.

“Absolutely not (a) correlation between Tom Barlow,” Struber said. “In the end we have a situation with many, many games in a row and we also (have) to protect some players. They have a high load on the field and I have to use my roster. This is the situation.”

Even before the substitutions started the second half was the Rapids’ to lose. It took over ten minutes for New York to get a shot on goal. But once changes began things went downhill quickly. Reyes coming off makes sense considering his injury. But him coming off for an attacking player like Cameron Harper is an odd choice. Right after his departure Colorado started to attack that right side and that’s how at least two of the goals, plus the called back one, were scored. Then taking Lewis Morgan off for Caden Clark, someone who is struggling to get back into the same form he had in late 2020, early 2021, is also questionable.

The team has four days to rest and practice before its next game. An away match against DC United awaits on Saturday night. After a convincing win at Audi Field in the Open Cup the Bulls will be looking for a rebound result against new head coach Wayne Rooney. This will also be the second installment of the 2022 Atlantic Cup, one of the oldest supporter cups in existence in MLS. RBNY won the first league match this season at home, 3-0.

“We’re a young team and we have to kind of grow and mature these next few weeks if we want to make a run for the playoffs,” Bulls’ defender Sean Nealis told the media. “We had a big opportunity tonight in regards to pushing to get closer to NYC and (Philadelphia Union), but I think we kind of lost that opportunity tonight. And like you said, it’s a big one against DC. They got Taxi (Fountas) and a couple of other big name forwards, I think we’ll have our hands full again. We got to correct that this weekend.”

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