BY MATTHEW LEVINE
The New York Red Bulls were down a goal after a timid first half performance at home. The club found itself needing a spark to get back in the match when the second half got underway.
Once again, that spark was Lloyd Sam. While Peguy Luyindula popped up with a timely header to earn the draw, it was Sam who was the man of the match. Although New York had a complete overhaul in performance throughout the second half, Sam provided the best attacking moments and energy as New York tried to get back into the game.
“First half I don’t even remember much because I hardly touched the ball,” Sam said after the match. “It was a bad performance all around from us in the first half. Second half was more like it.
“We always have to react to something. We need to start off the game how we played in the second half.”
It wasn’t just Sam who was disappointed with the first half. Head coach Mike Petke said, “To say that I wasn’t happy in the first half would probably be the understatement of the year.”
“That first half really was one of the worst halves of football I can remember us playing. It was so bad, at home especially, I’ve never seen us be that bad,” said Sam.
The key to the second half turnaround from the Red Bulls most dynamic player? Simply getting the ball to afford him the opportunity to take on converted right back Eric Avila. Time and time again, Sam found himself in space on the right side to put crosses in for his teammates — even if the chances weren’t converted.
“The main difference [in the second half] probably actually was getting the ball. First half I didn’t really get the ball in the opponent’s half. If I got it, it was in my half,” he said.
“Everyone seemed a bit more relaxed, maybe they dropped off us a bit, so just getting the ball really and knowing that we were 1-0 down at home. Everyone’s tail was up a little bit more.”
Sam has now made his case as a regular in the Red Bull starting XI on the right-hand side, keeping Eric Alexander on the bench where he may feature more as a central midfielder; a return to his natural position as opposed to last year.
Now winless in four, the Red Bulls are in a slump to start the season. However, Sam has been the bright spot and will look to continue his strong run of form against the Montreal Impact next weekend. With Thierry Henry (not playing on turf) and Tim Cahill (hamstring injury) good bets to miss the match, Sam will again need to be the attacking hub for the Red Bulls — and Petke will look for him to repeat his second half performance.
“Obviously Lloyd might have been the biggest change from the first to the second half,” the Red Bull boss said. “It seemed like he just wasn’t in a rhythm from the first half. We didn’t get him the ball much but second half he just tore down the right side.”