Luquinhas’ equalizer saved the Red Bulls. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Despite playing the final 35 minutes a man down, the Red Bulls managed to knot things up and leave Subaru Park with a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night.

The Red Bulls were hoping to set an MLS record with six wins to open a season. They will have to settle with five victories and a draw.

Given what they had to overcome a 5-0-1 away mark is quite impressive, considering the Red Bulls again earned points in Chester, Pa.

The Red Bulls (5-2-4, 19 points) fell to fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but only one point behind the leaders Montreal Impact,  Orlando City SC and Union (5-1-5, 20).

“We showed great mental willpower today, especially when things didn’t go our way,” defender Sean Nealis said. “We controlled what we controlled during the game. We responded well after the red card, and we got a lot of guys that have a lot of fight in them. We displayed that greatly today. I think it’ll only help us grow as players and people throughout the year and that was a hard-fought point. Obviously you wanted to come out with a win but a point felt great today.”

It was the second consecutive game in which the Red Bulls overcame a one-goal deficit. Last week they played the Portland Timbers to a 1-1 home draw.

Head coach Gerhard Struber said the team started to learn how to become resilient in the last month of the 2021 season – “always learning moments.”

“We grow with our mindset. I can see the big belief in so many moments in my team, and you can see when we concede a goal. The boys are very clear in the principles. They don’t run after difficult moments like headless chicken on the field.

I can see a very clear understanding from that what we want, in many, many actions. I think the mental power, the resilience from that what I spoke so often is right now in a completely different level.”

Luquinhas connected for the equalizer in the 66th minute, beating goalkeeper Andre Blake from the right side of the six-yard box.

“The ball came out to me and sometimes we go at the guy 1 v 1,” said right wing back Cameron Harper, who set up the goal. “But I saw an opportunity to put Luquinhas through. He made a really, really good run. It was actually a really, really good finish because the ball was bouncing. It goes to show us how good he is that he can he can deal with these passes with his composure. Luquinhas did really well for that.”

It appeared the Union had taken the lead in the 80th minute on Julian Carranza’s goal, but the hosts were ruled to be offside by VAR.

Six minutes into second-half stoppage time, goalkeeper Carlos Coronel made a huge save on Cory Burke on the left side of the box to preserve the draw.

New York played the final 35 minutes of the match with 10 men after Dylan Nealis was awarded his second yellow card of the match.

The Red Bulls started the match without two key performers – captain and center back Aaron Long (calf injury) and midfielder Lewis Morgan. Morgan, who missed the contest due to health and safety protocols, had played 67 consecutive games with Inter Miami FC. Long was on the bench after picking up a knock in the team’s 3-0 win over D.C. United in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night.

Philly scored two minutes into the second half. Sean Nealis headed the ball out of he area but it went directly to Daniel Gazdag, who did a give-and-go with Sergio Santos. Gazdag fired a shot past Coronel into the upper right corner for a 1-0 lead.

During a frantic time in front of the New York net in the 58th minute, Sean Nealis twice saved Philly shots off the line to keep the visitors within reach.