Give the Red Bulls credit. They invented a new way to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory.
New York's winless streak stretched to six games on Saturday after Crew defender Rich Balchan's stoppage time strike in the 92' minute brought Columbus level in time for a 1-1 draw. The Red Bulls led for most of the game after Mehdi Ballouchy chipped a cross from Luke Rodgers inside the right post in the ninth minute. Rodgers and a healthy Thierry Henry did not find a much-needed insurance goal while leading a depleted Red Bulls roster suffering from Gold Cup duties and injuries.
The club's fourth consecutive draw leaves NY with a 4-2-7 record and two points behind a first-place Philadelphia Union club that also earned a draw on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.
Take the Lead. Ballouchy's goal gave the Red Bulls their first lead in MLS play since conceding a 1-0 lead in the 12' minute of NY's 2-2 draw to the Houston Dynamo on May 21. The Moroccan midfielder's strike also ends a streak of 267 consecutive minutes without the lead.
New York only held the lead twice over any opponent in the month of May by way of a Dane Richards goal against Houston and an early Henry goal against the Galaxy being answered before halftime by Landon Donovan in the first match of the Red Bulls' ongoing winless streak.
Play of the Game: Ballouchy's Bad Touch. If not for a mental mistake by Ballouchy during stoppage time, he likely would have exited Red Bull Arena as Saturday's Man of the Match rather than the Goat of the Game.
Rather than clear the ball from the defensive zone, the Moroccan midfielder chose to provide the touch himself. A sloppy backheel by Ballouchy enabled Crew forward Justin Meram to take possession down the left flank and badly beat rookie defender Matt Kassel before delivering the cross which culminated in Balchan's equalizer.
That said, Ballouchy's gaffe will keep the conversation about the apparent dysfunction displayed on the pitch by NY instead of an ugly win. Players frequently flailed arms in frustration and expressed themselves on the pitch, which later carried over to a tense locker room scene after the match.
"Everyone is fuming in there," Luke Rodgers said to MLSsoccer.com after the match. "There's a lot of arguing."
Forward Momentum. While the Ballouchy blunder brought the club's troubles back to the surface, it's worth noting that an insurance goal against a rebuilding Columbus side would have gone a long way to calming everyone's nerves.
Henry and Rodgers mustered three shots between them and none on target, while Ballouchy mustered three shots on his own (two on target) and defender Roy Miller adding one shot on target of his own.
Part of that falls on the forwards not bettering the chances for a strong finish. Part of that falls on a midfield that failed to raise the pressure on the Crew and left the forwards without service. All of it culminates with a New York club bearing Supporters' Shield expectations that cannot consistently get behind the back line by land or air.
Right to Ruin. Kassel only entered the match after Norwegian defender Jan Gunnar Solli exited in the 28' minute with what was later described as a hamstring injury. Solli will receive further evaluation on Monday before determining if the injury will add him to the club's litany of players missing in action.
The loss of Solli would only add to the black hole swallowing the Red Bulls' right side while Richards is out of action due to international duty.
A Who's Who of Who? Red Bulls coach Hans Backe tapped midfielder Austin da Luz for his first MLS start along with giving starting nods to defenders Carlos Mendes and Stephen Keel.
Calling the rookie trio into action further depleted Backe's depth, leaving the Red Bulls with Corey Herzog and John Rooney as substitutes after Kassel replaced Solli. (Alex Horwath was the reserve 'keeper.) Backe has indicated that he expects no further roster moves to supplement the club during the Gold Cup, but one wonders if that may change should Solli need to miss significant time.