Sunday’s Independence Day match against the Colorado Rapids was the first time all season the New York Red Bulls moved away from their standard 4-4-2 formation, opting to go with with a 4-5-1 instead.
The lineup matched the Rapids’ five-man midfield with one of their own, a tactical move by head coach Hans Backe after Salou Ibrahim didn’t feel fully right after warmups. The coached opted to add another midfielder after Ibrahim warmed up and said he didn’t feel ready to play.
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Perhaps the forced change was a blessing in disguise. Twice this season, against FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders, the Red Bulls struggled to contain five-man midfields and the overlapping runs the extra man provides.
This time, The Red Bulls had their struggles, conceding an early goal, but then settled down to earn a 1-1 tie at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. It was the first draw all season for New York and was earned during a torrential downpour.
In the 15th minute, a Sinisa Ubiparipovic give-away in the attacking third led to a speedy Colorado breakout with Conor Casey slotting a ball into the box, where Omar Cummings put home the first goal of the game.
But the Red Bulls got an equalizer from Juan Pablo Angel against the run of play. The 34th-minute tally saw Angel notch his ninth goal of the season, masterfully taking down an Ubiparipovic corner kick and then powering in the shot.
“It was really big for us, that goal,” Dane Richards told MLSsoccer.com. “We didn’t want to chase, chase, chase all game long and that goal made things equal, and right before halftime.”
The Rapids had beaten New York by 4-0 score lines in each of their last two meetings at DSG Park. New York haven’t won on the 4th of July since 2001.
The goal by Angel seemed to give New York some composure as the team held meaningful possession for the first time all match in the latter stages of the first half.
For long stretches of the second half up until the final 10 minutes, New York proved to be the more dangerous team despite a 67th-minute effort by the Rapids’ Mehdi Ballouchy striking post. Despite the blustery conditions and playing at altitude, the Red Bulls gritted out a solid draw.
“Last year, we’d find a way to lose,” Richards said. “This time, we got the chance and we got the point.”
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.