Santiago Moreno (30) looks to pass the ball against Red Bulls defender John Tolkin, (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
One of the biggest puzzles this MLS season must be the Red Bulls.
On the road, they have stormed out of the gate, winning all five games.
Not too shabby.
At home, it has been another story altogether as they are winless in their opening six games at Red Bull Arena.
Very, very shabby.
The Red Bulls again dropped points at their venue, playing to a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on a rain-slicked pitch in Harrison, N.J. on Saturday night.
The result left New York at 0-2-3 at home and 5-2-3 overall while the Timbers moved to 2-3-7.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) May 8, 2022
“We definitely left wanting tonight,” said Red Bulls captain Aaron Long, who scored his team’s lone goal, the equalizer.
“It feels good to come back and tie it up at the end. We were pushing for a second one there in the end. We almost got one. We feel a little bit a little unlucky tonight. We always want three. So, it’s tough.”
Head coach Gerhard Struber and defender Tom Edwards also had some words about the Red Bulls’ inability to win at home.
“I feel a little bit sad and and for my for the for our fans,” Struber said. “It’s crazy. We’ve been five times on the road and in at home it’s for us at the moment looks like a bigger challenge.
“I know this is not always easy for the fans to realize that drive home [with one] point. I have a big understanding for fans that they are not happy today.”
Added Edwards: “We’re very disappointed disappointed, but we can’t dwell on things like this. If we want to be a top team, which is what we’re aiming to do – and we’ve proved that on away trips – we just need to start winning our home games.”
That seems to be much easier said than done.
New York had to play without forward Patryk Klimala, the hero of last week’s win at the Chicago Fire, as he sat out the match due to health and safety protocols.
Scoring opportunities were at a premium in the opening half.
Santiago Moreno had the first serious chance for the visitors, rattling a shot from outside the box off the crossbar in the 25th minute.
The Red Bulls’ best shot in the half came in the 43rd minute as Tom Barlow fired an attempt that goalkeeper David Bingham, in his first start as a Timber, managed to knock away before he slapped the rebound out of bounds in the 43rd minute.
The goal snapped a 335-minute scoreless streak for Portland.
Jaroslaw Niezgoda solved the Red Bulls and goalkeeper Carlos Coronel in the 53rd minute as he took a right-wing feed from Moreno and slipped the ball home at the near post for a 1-0 Portland lead.
“When they scored we weren’t 100 percent concentrated,” Struber said.
Bingham came up big in the 67th minute, denying Lewis Morgan’s attempt at the near post off a corner kick.
That set up another corner by Tom Edwards and this time the Red Bulls converted as Long slotted in a Dylan Nealis header pass for a 1-1 deadlock. It was Long’s second goal of the season and only the third home tally for the Red Bulls.
Bingham stoned the hosts again in the 84th minute, using both hands to knock away Morgan’s blast in the 84th minute. The ball got loose, but Bingham scrambled to retain possession.
Needing a goal to pull off a win and three points, Struber decided to go with Zach Ryan instead of Ashley Fletcher. Ryan replaced Barlow in the 81st minute.
“We tried everything in the last few days to bring him on the fitness,” Struber said. “He has a little bit of muscle tightness and the risk to bring him today was too high here.”
Struber said the Red Bulls had five games over the next three weeks and he wanted a healthy Fletcher for that stretch