Sean Nealis goes up against goalkeeper William Yarbrough. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
These are not the best of times for the Red Bulls.
Actually, these are the worst of times.
For the second time in as many games that count, they surrendered an unfathomable five goals in a match.
On July 27, they dropped an embarrassing 5-1 road loss to Orlando City SC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
On Tuesday night, at the friendly confines of Red Bull Arena, they lost to the Colorado Rapids, 5-4, against a team that hadn’t won on the road in MLS this season. The Rapids (7-9-6, 27) , who are in 10th place in the Western Conference, entered the match winless in 10 away contests (0-7-3).
What made it even more astonishing was that New York enjoyed leads of 2-0 and 3-1,
And what made it even confounding what that the Rapids struck for three goals during a 12-minute meltdown to grab a 5-3 lead.
Yeah, it was bad.
“I think we’ve kind of just shot ourselves in the foot at times,” defender Sean Nealis said.
“We had a big opportunity tonight in regards to pushing to get closer to NYC and Philly, but I think we kind of lost that opportunity tonight.”
The Red Bulls (10-7-6, 36 points) are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
“We are very disappointed today,” Red Bulls head coach Gerard Struber said, according to the Red Bulls’ post-game transcript. “High frustration in our brain, and what we expect today, just what we executed was not on this level of what we can do normal. I think we were not sharp enough after the lead to score again bring the game in a clear direction. I think we bring them always a little bit back and the belief is growing from Colorado. And I think in the end, yeah, very — I feel very sad for many fans. They are coming he6re and pay a lot for the ticket. And yeah, we create a game like that; that this was not our standard, and I feel sorry.”
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) August 3, 2022
With the Red Bull nursing a 3-2 lead in the 77th minute, the game turned in favor of Colorado.
Colorado evened the leveled the score on a corner kick. The ball was knocked away by goalkeeper Carlos Coronel, but the ball fell to the feet of Collen Warner, who tapped it for a 3-3 deadlock.
The visitors took the lead in the 80th minute, as Michael Barrios sent a shot into the back of the net that took a slight deflection following a feed from Diego Rubio.
The Rapids made it 4-3 in the 89th minute, as Dantouma Toure scored off a rebound after a save from Coronel on Rubio’s shot.
Tom Barlow converted a penalty kick, his fourth goal of the season, seven minutes into stoppage time, but it was way too little and way too late.
“It’s not that good enough on our part defensively, and I think we need to clean that up,” Nealis said. “It’s just been small mistakes … whether playing the wrong pass beforehand that leads to the goal or just not being in the right position. I think a lot of games in a short amount of time kind of hit us hard, and I think we have to correct that this week.”
But many teams have to face fixture congestion during the summer months.
“It’s a combination of both kind of mental lapses and physical lapses on the field,” Nealis said. “We have to be better in that regard. It’s not an excuse, but we’ve kind of looked tired at times. We have to learn how to fight through that. We’re a young team and we have to kind of grow and mature these next few weeks if we want to make a run for the playoffs.”
The Red Bulls opened the scoring in the sixth minute, as Dru Yearwood collected a pass from Luquinhas, took a few steps toward the center edge of the box and ripped a shot that took a deflection off a Colorado player past goalkeeper William Yarbrough into the back of the net
They doubled their advantage three minutes later, as Lewis Morgan sent the ball into the box off a free kick that was headed in by captain and center back Aaron Long.
The Rapids sliced the deficit in half in the 21st minute, as Rubio fired a shot t6hat took a deflection on the way in following a pass from Bryan Acosta.
The hosts regained a two-goal advantage in the 28th minute, as Morgan converted a penalty kick following a foul of Luquinhas in the box by Lalas Abubakar.
But Colorado wouldn’t go away as it struck in the 38th minute, as Keegen Rosenberry scored off a volley from a pass from Rubio.
D.C. United, under the tutelage of newly named head coach Wayne Rooney, are next at RBA on Saturday night.
“It’s a big one against D.C.,” Nealis said. “They got Taxi [Fountas] and a couple of other guys big name forwards, I think we’ll have our hands full again. We got to correct that this weekend.”