Some say good teams make their own luck. Others say a good team gets the bounces. Both proved true Sunday night, and that’s why the Red Bulls remain the only undefeated team in Major League Soccer.
Felipe scored his first goal for the Red Bulls in the 58th minute on a ball that deflected off his head and into the net and the Red Bulls played a well-earned 1-1 tie with the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy before 20,062 at Red Bull Arena.
“We have been working on the midfield going to the offensive part and I was lucky to follow the action and the ball went right to my head,” Felipe explained. “That was the goal, I had to look again but I was completely lucky. But most important was we scored a goal. I didn't score many but I think it was the luck.”
The play began when midfielder Sal Zizzo carried deep into the box on the left and grounded a cross in front. Bradley Wright-Phillips hit a quick, left-footed shot that was blocked by Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza. The ball deflected into the air toward the left post, hit Felipe’s head and zipped past Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Pendeo.
Yes, it was a case of Felipe being in the right place at the right time, but that’s an instinct you can’t teach and one of the reasons Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch traded for Felipe in the offseason.
“He does so many little things well,” Marsch said. “He sees the game fast, his feet are sharp, so in tight spots he can collect balls and see things quickly and deliver the next play. He covers so much ground, he breaks up so many plays, he's a connecter, an attacker, his engine is at a very high level so I thought another very good performance for him in the middle of the field.
“You know, he is only 24 but he is wise beyond his years and I think that he shows that every day he's grasping what we want to do and he is growing and I think he's going to get only better. So very good start to the season for him and another very good night and I know he will be very happy that he got on the board even if it was a little bit of a weird play, but still a goal nonetheless and an important one.”
It was a night that saw the Galaxy (3-2-3) bottle up the Red Bulls (3-0-3) in the center of the field in the first half, which proved frustrating, especially when the Red Bulls fell behind just nine minutes into the match.
Eighteen-year-old Bradford Jamieson, an exciting talent, made a move to get away from Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty at the top of the box on the left, then turned defender Chris Duvall in circles before unleashing a laser into the lower right corner for his first career MLS goal.
“BJ I know from when I was with US Soccer. I would go with a lot of the youth national teams so I got to know a lot of these young guys,” Marsch said. “BJ was a young fringe player on the U-15 team that I worked with. I spent a lot of time with that team I like BJ a lot. He has a lot of personality, he comes to training with a lot of energy and I am happy for him that he got a goal, obviously I prefer not against us, but I think he has a big career ahead of him and I am happy to see him be successful.”
The Red Bulls nearly tied it four minutes later. Sacha Kljestan sent a cross from the right to Wright-Phillips, who slipped behind his mark and was open in front of the net. Wright-Phillips sent a volley on net that would have been a goal if he hit it anywhere else but right at Penedo. But he did, and the ball deflected off Penedo, then the right post, and was cleared.
“I think we controlled the game more today, we did a lot of the things that we wanted to do, put them under pressure, create chances, things like that,” Kljestan said “Overall, we leave disappointed because we gave up an early goal off of a little small defensive one-on-one mistake, but I think the mentality was good to come back again. We got an ugly goal, we created some good chances and we probably should have scored a few more. So, overall, disappointed.”
The Red Bulls carried play in the second half but could only score on Felipe’s fluke goal. And while the tie dropped them two points behind D.C. United and the New England Revolution for first place in the Eastern Conference the Red Bulls have played fewer games. As it were, it was the defending champions that came into Red Bull Arena and were lucky to escape with a point.
"We did the things you're supposed to do when you're playing on the road," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “I think this year we've been in a few matches where we walked off the field with a point and today we deserved to get a point out of the game, so it's not a perfect result by any means but a well-earned point on the road ."
Marsch continued to see the positives, not just in the team’s record, but in its style of play.
“I thought that we controlled the game from the opening whistle, and for 90 minutes we were on top of the match,” he said. “Getting the early goal for them really changed the match a little bit and meant that we were pushing and they were sitting back, but overall I thought that the little tactical details for what we needed to do to be on top of the match were good. The guys pushed and pushed to get the equalizer and we were a little bit unlucky not to find the lead. So overall I would give it a positive performance.”
It will be a busy week for the Red Bulls, who will play three games in seven days. On Wednesday they will host the Colorado Rapids before taking on the Revolution in Foxborough, Mass., on Saturday.
Marsch expects defenders Ronald Zubar and Roy Miller to be ready for Wednesday’s match and will see how the player recovery goes from the Galaxy match before deciding any lineup changes.
“We have a very good roster, a deep roster, and we are going to call on it now," he said.