John Tolkin set up Omir Fernandez’s late equalizer. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
For the second consecutive Saturday night, the Red Bulls found a way to salvage a point with a late goal as they walked out of Red Bull Arena with a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo.
Omir Fernandez headed home his first goal of the MLS season off John Tolkin’s corner kick in the 89th minute, saving the hosts from an embarrassing fate.
The Red Bulls outshot the Dynamo by a ridiculous 18-3 margin and enjoyed a 65 percent possession advantage, but could not solve goalkeeper Steve Clark until minutes before the final whistle.
The hosts did earn a point for their efforts, but they don’t award points in MLS for effort and overall domination of a match. Teams secure point by scoring goals and winning games, especially at home.
The result left the Red Bulls with a 1-2-5 record and eight points while Houston moved to 3-3-1 and 10 points.
“We’re disappointed with the end result of the game,” midfielder Daniel Edelman said. “Again, we felt we dominated throughout the whole game and, you know, they got one moment in behind, but it’s still on us that we’ve got to be able to finish our chances and still create better opportunities.”
Given what transpired with Dante Vanzeir’s suspension, head coach Gerhard Struber was happy to get something out of the game.
“I think the belief in my group of players,” he said. :I can see this after a very difficult week one more time on a very, very high level how the boys work together with our typical spirit. Yeah, I think what I must say to my boys, a big respect to how we handled moments like that.”
The opening kickoff was delayed by 32 minutes by lightning in the Harrison, N.J., pushing the start of the game to 8:11 p.m. in a sparsely filled stadium.
You could say the Red Bulls entered the game with a leg tied behind their collective backs because three of their most important attacking players did not dress. Vanzeir served the first of his six-match suspension as imposed by the league for his racist comments in the 1-1 home draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on April 8. Midfielders Luquinhias (adducotor) and Lewis Morgan (hip) missed another game with injuries, as did Frankie Amaya (ankle).
As threatened and expected, members of the Red Bulls’ three main supporters groups in the South Ward – Viking Army SC, Empire Supporters Club and Torcida 96 left their seats after the national anthem, in protest of the Vanzeir’s suspension. They felt the Belgian forward should have been socked with more games due to his ill-timed comments on the field.
Despite outplaying the Dynamo and outshooting the visitors by a 10-1 margin in the opening half, both teams left the soggy pitch scoreless.
That probably did not please Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber and made Houston boss Ben Olsen happy because his team chased the game for most of the half. In fact, New York enjoyed an unusual 62-percent possession in the first half, but could not cash in.
The Red Bulls certainly had their opportunities, but Clark made four saves to keep Houston in the game. His two most memorable saves came within a minute of each other. He denied Corey Burke’s header in the 34th minute before stopping Cameron Harper in the 35th minute.
Yet, it was the Dynamo that solved the Red Bulls’ defense with a quick counterattack. Ivan Franco slipped a right-wing feed to Adalberto Carrasquilla, who slotted the ball from seven yards on the left side past goalkeeper Carlos Coronel in the 67th minute.
That left up the heroics up to Tolkin and Fernandez, who tallied his first goal of the young season to avoid a home shutout.
“I’m trying to bring a little bit more of my creative aspect into the game a little bit of something different and I think it’s been working these past two week,” Fernandez said. “I was happy to get that goal in a situation where I normally don’t find myself in scoring positions.”