Injuries and suspensions have plagued the New York Red Bulls all season, forcing them to try and grind out results without several of their key contributors.
But for the most part, the Red Bulls have done just that. And Wednesday’s 1-1 draw on the road with the Vancouver Whitecaps was just the latest example of the team's grit that could serve serve them well down the road.
Playing without Designated Player duo Thierry Henry (calf) and Rafa Márquez (thigh), Teemu Tainio (knee) and Mehdi Ballouchy (green card issues), the Red Bulls managed to get a result at BC Place against a Whitecaps team that came in riding a four-game unbeaten streak. It took a late and rare goal from Heath Pearce, but a weakened New York side got the point nonetheless.
“We have great players that are missing so we had to step up and get a point in a tough environment,” winger Dane Richards told reporters after the match. “That showed depth and the coaches have done a great job.”
The Red Bulls came out from the opening kickoff looking for a victory in a stadium where the Whitecaps have only lost once in 11 matches across all competitions this year. And while the finishing could have been better for New York, the effort put forth defensively was an improvement over the team’s most recent outing, a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Fire last weekend.
“We knew that it would be a hard game up here,” said Red Bulls assistant coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen, who led the Red Bulls on Wednesday as head coach Hans Backe tended to personal matters. “Vancouver have been very good so far this season. For us today it was mostly about having a working attitude on the team, because [in the defeat to the Chicago Fire] it was a little bit flat, giving up easy goals.”
The shorthanded Red Bulls managed to pull level after a 75th-minute goal from Whitecaps defender Martín Bonjour when one of their own role players stepped up. And that’s a scenario that has played out a handful of times for New York this season.
“I think it speaks to the character of the team both home and away that we're getting points and we're doing it in different ways,” said Pearce, whose 86th-minute equalizer was his first MLS goal. “We're not always playing the most attractive soccer, and sometimes we’re getting points in an attractive way and sometimes we're grinding it out. That's the stuff that pays off later in the season.”