Sean Nealis (left) and the Red Bulls have gotten off a solid start this season. (Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
As I discovered many years ago, not all soccer ties are created equal.
And, I was reminded of that this past weekend as three teams — the Red Bulls, New York City FC and the U.S. women’s national team — ended up drawing in their respective games.
To the general sports fan, that would sound so boring because he or she might think a tie doesn’t mean anything.
In many ways, it was the good, the bad and the ugly.
For the good, the Red Bulls 1-1 deadlock at Columbus Crew SC is worth more than a point to the team that calls Harrison, N.J. home.
Playing three matches within seven days, Red Bull head coach Chris Armas was forced use a rotation in the team’s season opener Saturday, just like last year.
But unlike 2018, when they rolled over the Portland Timbers at Red Bull Arena the Red Bulls could not walk out of MAPFRE Stadium with three points.
Still, earning a point on the road against a quality side such as Columbus while using only three starters was an impressive achievement.
Now, that is the good.
As for the bad, you only have to take a look at NYCFC’s 2-2 draw at Orlando City SC. That was a bad tie because City allowed a two-goal, second-half advantage wither away. Now, Orlando has endured an abysmal start since joining Major League Soccer in 2015, having never reached the playoffs in its first four season. And while the team might be improved over last year, at this juncture the Lions cannot be given the proper respect of a contending team.
Given NYCFC’s away headaches last year, this certainly wasn’t an encouraging sign to kick off the year.
Yes, the MLS season is 34 games long and its only March. But while some City observers might claim it was a well-earned point, I look at it as two points lost.
And then there’s the ugly.
While winning the SheBelieves Cup won’t boost any team in the Women’s World Cup this summer, the U.S. national team has not looked like it old self in the annual competition.
The American women opened the competition with a 2-2 draw against Japan Wednesday, which tallied the equalizer in stoppage time.
They tacked on yet another 2-2 result vs. England Saturday as they came back from a 2-1 deficit as the USA played back-to-back 2-2 ties for the first time in its history.
This shouldn’t happen, especially on home soil and in a World Cup year.
Yes, there is plenty of time to improve over the next three months before the Americans kick off the WWC against Chile in Reims, France June 11.
They have one more SheBelieves encounter — against Brazil Tuesday night — to right the ship a bit before rounding out the WWC warm-ups with five more games.
Those two results have continued a rather uneven and worrisome start to the year. The USA has won only once in four matches in 2019 after a dismal 3-1 loss in France and a 1-0 victory over Spain.
Not very becoming the top-ranked team in the world and defending world champions, huh?