The New York Red Bulls have been plagued with penalty calls this season.
Through nine games, the team has been called for five fouls in the box. Each penalty kick opportunity has been converted by the opposition; some convincingly, others just squeaking by the red-hot keeper Luis Robles.
While the Red Bulls suffered a similar plight last season, Red Bull boss Mike Petke has grown alarmed over this year’s pronounced trend.
“Yeah I mean, you know, it’s frustrating to be honest with you, you know, and Luis must be extremely frustrated,” Petke said during his weekly conference call.
Saturday against Columbus, the penalty bug stung New York once again. A well played cross from Jairo Arrieta found Justin Meram in the box. Fullback Kosuke Kimura lost his marker and shoved him away from the opportunity, earning him a foul and allowing Columbus to take the early lead in front of the Crew faithful.
The play was eerily familiar to the team’s first penalty call of the season; fullback Richard Eckersley’s foul in the box against Vancouver which triggered a 4-0 romp at Empire Field.
Mental lapses like these have haunted New York all season long, and Kimura’s gaffe was just the latest example.
“I think that it’s just a little bit of falling asleep at times,” Petke admits. “You know, it’s the second penalty we’ve given up this year in that exact same way about a player coming around one of our defenders, blindsiding him, and our defender having to react too quick instead of perhaps being in a better position.”
However, not every call has been the cause of a lack of concentration. As Petke points out, others were simply the product of bad luck.
“A couple of the other ones I thought were, you know, [Jamison] Olave’s penalty, there was nothing really to talk to him about,” he said. “I don’t think it was a penalty, you know, and the handball to [Ibrahim] Sekagya, it was a great effort for him to block two or three before that. It’s just one of those things that hit his
“The ones that concern me are the brain lapses that we have had a couple of times, allowing players to get in front of us and then reacting too late and I thought it was a penalty, to be honest with you, in Columbus. I really don’t have too much negative to say about that.”
It is a problem New York surely needs to address. Of the five penalties called against the team this season, three gave opposing teams the go-ahead goal. Another allowed the Colorado Rapids to draw late in their encounter, stealing two valuable road points away from New York. Only one penalty this season — Sekagya’s 80th minute handball against Philadelphia — was rendered inconsequential thanks to a late 2-0 lead.