The result wasn’t good at all, but the Red Bulls' 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday could have been a lot worse. New York were lucky not to have been three or four goals down after a horrible first half, and then in the second half they could have — and should have — equalized. For many Red Bulls fans, it went from halftime despair to second-half hope to ruing missed chances as the final whistle blew.
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 1, NY 0
Four things to take from the loss to RSL:
1. Well, that was bad …
The first half, in which RSL outshot New York 5-1, was perhaps the Red Bulls' worst 45 minutes of the season. New York rarely held possession outside of their own half, and they looked disorganized. Granted, RSL are one of the best teams in the league and are chasing the Supporters' Shield, but this was a bad performance from the Red Bulls. New York had two Designated Players on the field, so you’d expect more creativity and scoring opportunities than what they managed in the first half. Plus, this match could have been a scoreless tie — a fantastic result for the road team — had the back line had been tighter to start the game.
2. … But perhaps not that bad
After the half, New York looked like a better team as they controlled possession and attacked, although they lacked consistent scoring opportunities. Forward Juan Pablo Angel had two good chances in the 55th minute to tie things up, but RSL’s keeper Nick Rimando came up big [WATCH: Rimando stops Angel]. In the second half the Red Bulls vastly improved their attack, and the midfield, led by Seth Stammler, limited RSL’s scoring opportunities. Based off the second half, there is hope for New York as they face some tough opposition in the campaign stretch.
3. Missing Rafa and Richards
Having Thierry Henry and Angel on the field wasn’t enough to match RSL's class. The Red Bulls missed the speed and wide play of Dane Richards on the right flank and Rafa Marquez’s ability to control the midfield centrally. This is a vastly different side without Marquez, who is a significant player for the Red Bulls in terms of team chemistry. The Mexican captain, who was away on international duty, is a major part of what will gvie New York hope come playoff time.
4. Sutton’s gem
Greg Sutton officially put to rest any concerns about New York's backup goalkeeping situation. The 'keeper can’t be faulted on the 4th minute goal [WATCH: Espindola nets go-ahead goal], and he made several superb saves in the first half to keep his side in the game. It was a statement game for the former Toronto FC keeper, who has patiently bided his time behind Bouna Coundoul. One has to think an expansion team was watching his performance on Saturday night and noting his strong shot-blocking abilities.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012