Red Bulls celebrate Aaron Long’s late goal Wednesday night. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
Three games, three late goals, three results turned on their heads.
The Red Bulls have been living precariously close to the edge in their last three matches, accruing five points on 11th-hour scores, when they were on the verge of settling for only one.
Their late-match heroics have come within an 11-day span:
* Brian White scored in stoppage time to give New York a 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC Oct. 18.
* White duplicated his feat in injury time, this time for a 2-2 tie at the Chicago Fire Oct. 24.
* And Aaron Long tallied in the 89th minute to lift the Red Bulls to a 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution Wednesday, Oct. 28.
Team captain Sean Davis said the turnaround came after suffering back-to-back losses to Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF during a five-day span earlier this month. The Red Bulls then edged Atlanta United, 1-0, on the road, which kicked off a five-game unbeaten streak (2-0-3).
“We’re coming off of two tough losses and we had a good group discussion about where we’re at, and how we are in control of our own destiny,” he said. “We took accountability. We took more responsibility. We said we know we can be better. Since then it’s been a strong commitment from the group. A lot of guys understand their role, and when to step up, and when they’re on the field, to give absolutely everything they’ve got. That goes a long way in terms of us getting results and that connects to the culture that we’ve been able to build here.
“You look at these last few weeks and you know, on one hand we leave a little disappointed in not getting three points in some scenarios after playing well. But at the same time I think it says a lot about the character of the group that we can grind out results and there’s no better time than that mentality than now, heading into the playoffs.”
The Red Bulls booked a postseason berth for the 11th consecutive season Wednesday night. Their win, combined with Miami’s 2-1 loss at FC Dallas, did the trick.
“It speaks volumes about the energy that is in the group and doing what it takes at all costs to try and get a result, we knowing what is at stake in terms of where we stand, what the standings are like, and how to push all the games,” interim head coach Bradley Carnell said of the late goals and performances. “There is so many things on the line now, and also trying to get the boys to have fun at the same time, so there has been trying to balance all these emotions out and knowing the importance of all these games that are coming thick and fast.”
Next up: New York City FC at Yankee Stadium in the Hudson River Derby Sunday night.
Goalkeeper Ryan Meara would rather not have a cardiac finish this time.
“Hopefully, we can score a couple early on Sunday and we won’t leave it so late, but that’s just the way the game goes sometimes,” he said. “We’re confident in our ability to play a full 90 minutes. Sometimes … we score these late goals, and it comes down to the last couple minutes. At this point of the year, however, whether we score in the first minute or the 96th minute, as long as you’re scoring and getting results and just accumulating points this time of year, that’s all it’s about.”