The New York Red Bulls’ loss, 2-0, to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night won’t be remembered for the scoreline. The match against the Eastern Conference leaders made national headlines a Dru Yearwood red card incident in second half stoppage time. Overall, the whole situation is an ironic depiction of the team’s season so far in 2022.
In the closing moments of the match with his team trailing by two goals, the Harlow, England native was playing offense trying to cut the deficit. Referee Tim Ford called the play dead and gave possession back to the Union. Frustrated, Yearwood kicked the ball with force towards the sideline where it traveled into the stands. It directly made contact with a young woman and possibly a small child one row in front of here, causing Ford to give Yearwood a yellow.
The play didn’t stop however as while Ford approached Yearwood, the midfielder climbed into the stands to try and apologize for what happened. Despite being in the shadow of the traveling Union supporters the biggest jeers came from the home crowd. Yearwood was subjected to boos and explicit chants before returning to the field. Not only was he unable to apologize to the fan due to the crowd keeping him away but Ford also showed him a red card for the act.
“First of all I hope everyone is okay with the family in the stands,” RBNY head coach Gerhard Struber told Red Bulls Nation following the match. “This is the most important thing. The second thing is; absolutely no good what (Drew) did. We will speak with him about it in a very clear direction.”
Yearwood himself took to social media following the match and, alongside a team statement, asked for forgiveness.
“My emotions got the best of me on this day, and I’ve let down the entire organization and every single New York Red Bulls’ fan,” the player said on Instagram.
Yearwood will be suspended at least one game for the red card alone. It is currently not known if the league or team itself will implement any further disciplinary action. Sources close to the situation have made it clear the Red Bulls will not appeal any judgment going forward.
In a weird way the whole situation feels more relevant to the team’s season than anything that happened on the field for 90 minutes. Here’s how the game went overall; New York’s familiar 3-4-2-1 formation functioned in the first half. The team struggled to get shots on goal. The best chance came in the 23rd minute when Elias Manoel, in his second ever RBNY match, fed Lewis Morgan. The winger’s run down the right side ended with a cross into a charging Luquinhas, who’s spin to avoid a defender resulted in a blocked back shot.
From there New York continued to attack but Major League Soccer MVP candidate Andre Blake did his job. The Union goalkeeper did well when challenged in goal.
By the time Mikkel Uhre scored to start the second half the crowd energy didn’t indicate many had hope of coming back. Dániel Gazdag’s dagger in the 74th minute sealed that conclusion.
Overall, Red Bull Arena was in an odd place on Saturday night. An announced crowd of 16,247 felt closer to 12k (possibly less). A weekend match on a holiday weekend against a local competitor, who just so happens to lead the East, feels like it should be a bigger deal. Instead the traveling support for Philadelphia felt louder than the South Ward at moments.
To salvage my own reputation, all three RBNY Supporter’s Groups were standing and loud all game. But it was hard not to peer over at the three stands and notice the empty patches of space. Having home and away supporters battling for chant supremacy is always a fun time. But in this case it felt too close for comfort.
Which goes back to the Yearwood situation. The New York Red Bulls currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference. Even before Saturday the hope for Supporter’s Shield was a pipe dream. But the fight to host a home playoff game is still very much active. Instead, local and national media and publishing the team’s name only because of the fan incident.
Fans are distraught after MLS player Dru Yearwood strikes them with a ball pic.twitter.com/A08nkjgXzC
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) September 4, 2022
It’s a troubling situation for a plethora of reasons. Yearwood, obviously regretful of his actions, will need to face further punishment. It’s not as bad as when Kaku struck a ball into the face of a Sporting Kansas City fan during 2019, which resulted in a two game suspension. Though it was at home so… maybe in a way it is worse? Regardless, Yearwood’s quiet stat sheet hides one of the hungriest players New York currently has. Following his return from injury the former Brentford player has been a key piece in organizing offensive opportunities. In particular, the connection he has with Lewis Morgan has helped the winger climb further up the leading scorer list.
Not just that but in a season where despite playing well at times the team still lacks confidence. The fans lack confidence in the side as well. A situation like this isn’t going to alleviate any concerns. The team’s lack of midfield concession and the continued inability to score goals consistently have dampened the expectations of plenty in the fanbase. Yearwood is potentially out for games against the New England Revolution and New York City FC. The idea of the midfield going back to early season form isn’t a fun one. Especially considering only one of those games is on the road, where RBNY has done well.