Under any circumstances, a road trip to face the Seattle Sounders would be a daunting task. Factor in taking the trip without some of your best players in rain-soaked conditions, and we could be talking about the stuff nightmares are made of.
The New York Red Bulls took on the Sounders Sunday night without the likes of forward Thierry Henry and defender Jamison Olave, as head coach Mike Petke decided it would be best to err on the side of caution. End result? No problem. Despite going down late in the first half due to a Brad Evans penalty kick, the short-handed Red Bulls battled back to earn a 1-1 draw at CenturyLink Field.
“We were unlucky not to get the three points,” Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill said after the game. “We had a lot of players step in due to other circumstances. This is what it means to be a team.”
Making his first appearance since August 31, Ibrahim Sekagya stepped up to fill in at central defense and helped keep the Sounders off the board in the run of play. Up front, Fabian Espindola and Peguy Luyindula slotted in to make their first starts in over a month, and rewarded coach Petke’s faith by helping to set up Cahill’s 76th-minute equalizer.
“I thought Peguy and Fabian were fantastic tonight,” midfielder Dax McCarty said. “Probably the best game of the season for both of them, in my opinion.”
“The insertion of Peguy into the lineup tonight was strictly because he’s very good at holding the ball and he has great vision, so we knew that if we could get him the ball past their midfield line, then he turns and goes, we could be dangerous tonight,” head coach Mike Petke said. “I thought he did great tonight.”
New York’s depth has been tested in recent weeks. Bradley Wright-Phillips missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring strain suffered in last week’s 1-0 win over FC Dallas, while Lloyd Sam returned to the starting lineup on Sunday after missing two weeks with a groin injury.
The injuries come at an inopportune time for the Red Bulls, who are locked in a tight race for the Supporters' Shield. So far, however, New York has been able to shrug off the challenge those injuries pose; in their last five games, the Red Bulls are 4-0-1, and sit atop the league standings with 52 points.
“I think that a lot of emphasis is put on who we didn’t have more than who we did have to play [Sunday], and I thought that was discredit to a lot of the guys,” Petke said. “I have faith in these guys, and they have faith in each other to come and get a result. And we got one.”
The Red Bulls return home to Red Bull Arena this Saturday to take on the New England Revolution for a 7:00 PM kick off. Get tickets now at Red Bulls Ticket Central, or call 877.RB.SOCCER.